Gay Pride 2010 in Serbia attacked with stones and firebombs
(11/10-2010) The Gay Pride parade in Belgrade was completed Sunday, despite violent attacks and 500 protesters who shouted "Death over gays," and “Serbia, Serbia, Serbia.” More than 1,000 participants walked through the streets of Belgrade, protected by 5,000 police who used tear gas to stop the protesters. Both the march and the planned following party were carried out despite the challenges.
During Sunday afternoon, Belgrade city center became a battleground for protesters – mostly ultranationalists and hooligans – and the police. Buildings and shops were set on fire and ruined. The party office of the ruling party Serbian Democratic Party was burnt, and protesters also tried to set fire to a mobile mammography station. About 60 people were injured during the clashes, mostly police officers. More than 100 arrests were made, and according to Serbian TV the violent protesters risk up to six years in prison.
Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of our sister organization in Sweden, Civil Rights Defenders, participated in the parade and was impressed by the authorities' efforts to keep the participants safe from the attacks of the protesters. - In this sense the parade is a great victory to LGBT rights in Serbia and the authorities deserve credit for making this possible, Hårdh told us. - However, I am concerned that the hooligans may take revenge by attacking the LGBT community in the future. The authorities must continue having focus on the security of this group and keep a close eye on the violent gangs.
The LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) population is frequently subject to hate speech and hate crimes in the Balkans, and activists are living in fear of being attacked. There have been several attempts to implement LGBT events in the countries of the former Yugoslavia in recent years, but the resistance is strong both in the political leadership and in the population. In 2001, the first attempt to organize Pride in Belgrade ended with violent assaults on the participants, while the police were simply watching. Pride was also cancelled last year, as the police claimed they could not provide security. In Bosnia Herzegovina an attempt at organizing a LGBT culture festival in the autumn of 2008 was unsuccessful because of violent attacks by hooligans and religious extremists. In Zagreb, Croatia a parade was held in 2008 under widespread protests.
Prior to the event on Sunday, Interior Minister Ivica Dacic stated that the parade would be a test for Serbia's democracy, and that the police would do what they could to protect the participants in the parade. President Boris Tadic has already strongly condemned the violence in the streets in public statements.
The efforts of the Serbian government made it possible to carry out a parade under protection of the police, which represents an obvious and positive change. However, securing this event is not sufficient to prove that Serbia is addressing the situation for the LGBT population. Strengthening the anti-discrimination law so that it provides full and explicit protection to people belonging to sexual minorities is necessary, and the government and police should undertake the necessary measures to protect gay activists, ensure that hate crimes are properly recorded and prosecuted. Action should also be taken to to counter prejudice and educate people about LGBT and their rights.