Thousands of LGBTQ+ activists marched in Belgrade despite authorities’ ban

Thousands of LGBTQ+ activists marched in Belgrade despite authorities' ban

the parade, supposed to be the highlight of this pan-European event which takes place each year in a different city, took place without notable incident. But according to local media, clashes pitted counter-protesters against police. The Serbian Interior Ministry had banned the march on Tuesday, citing security concerns as far-right groups threatened to stage their own protests after a series of counter-Pride in the capital.

“I have been to several Prides but this one is slightly more stressful than the others,” model and activist Yasmin Benoit told AFP. “I am from the United Kingdom where everyone is more united and where it is more commercial (…) But here, this is really what a Pride should be”, she added, in reference to the fight society at the origins of the movement.

“We are fighting for the future of this country,” summed up Luka, a Serbian protester. Despite the ban, the demonstrators were able to walk a few hundred meters in the rain, between the Constitutional Council and a nearby park, a much shorter route compared to the Pride march initially planned.

groups of counter-protesters

Large riot police were deployed around the rally and repelled small groups of counter-protesters brandishing crosses and religious insignia, according to AFP journalists. The Ministry of the Interior had also banned any counter-protest but in far-right discussion forums, users had promised to protest Pride.

According to the ministry, 31 people were arrested. The authorities did not specify who it was, but AFP journalists saw several counter-protesters being arrested. According to N1 television, scuffles occurred between police and counter-demonstrators, the latter throwing smoke bombs at the police, several of whose vehicles were damaged.

The march ban had caused consternation among rights NGOs. It is a “shameful surrender, and the implicit consecration of intolerance and threats of unlawful violence”, according to Graeme Reid, director of the human rights program LGBTQ + from Human Rights Watch. Serbia has been the subject of intense international pressure: more than 20 embassies, including those of the United States, France, Germany and Japan, called on it in a joint statement to reconsider its decision .

Serbia candidate to the EU

The Serbia has been a candidate for the European Union for a decade but member states have raised concerns over the years about its human rights record. Homosexual marriage is not legal in this country of less than seven million inhabitants, where homophobia is deeply rooted despite some progress against discrimination.

The Pride marches of 2001 and 2010 were targeted by the far right and marred by violence. Since 2014, the Pride has been held without notable incident but under strong police protection.

Last weekend, thousands of people, motorcycle gangs, Orthodox priests and far-right nationalists, took to the streets to demand the cancellation of the parade. “I am here to preserve Serbian traditions, faith and culture which are being destroyed by sodomites,” Andrej Bakic, 36, a counter-protester and member of a group, told AFP on Saturday. surrounded by riot police.

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