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Hundreds Of Gay Rights Activists March In Belgrade

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Hundreds of gay rights activists have marched in Belgrade in Serbia's first gay pride parade in four years.

Media estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 activists took part in the peaceful march on September 28.

Several thousand antiriot police, special police units, armored vehicles, and water cannons were deployed across the capital for the march due to threats by far-right groups.

Some 50 antigay protestors were detained during the march.

The two-kilometer march began in front of the main government building in Nemanjina Street and passed along Kneza Milosa Avenue and by parliament before ending in front of Belgrade City Hall.

RFE/RL's Balkans Service reports that the parade was attended by a large number of public figures.

Correspondents say that among the audience were Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali, actress Mirjana Karanovic, director Srdjan Dragojevic, and the Serbian Minister of Culture Ivan Tasovac.

Mali told reporters that it was important to show that: "Belgrade is an open city, which means it is open to all and that everyone here is equal."

Several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport, also attended the march.

WATCH: Hundreds March In Gay Pride Parade (Natural Sound)

The parade was banned during the last three years over security concerns after hard-line nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police at the first-ever event in 2010, leaving 150 people injured.

This year, police did not grant explicit permission to organizers, but simply allowed the ban to expire at midnight the day before the march was scheduled.

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic has urged calm ahead of the gay pride parade, warning that authorities could still stop the event if security was threatened.

A few thousand protesters, including members of the ultranationalist Dveri group, had marched on September 27 against the parade.

WATCH: Police, Antigay Protesters Clash In Belgrade (Natural Sound)

Earlier this week, the Serbian Orthodox Church compared homosexuality to pedophilia.

Homophobia is widespread in Serbia, often supported by church leaders and right-wing parties.

However, the country came under pressure from the European Union, which says the event is a test of Serbia's commitment to the fundamental freedoms promoted by the bloc.

Serbia is pursuing EU membership talks.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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