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Hundreds Stage Gay-Pride Parade In Belgrade

Gay-pride parade marchers in Belgrade

Hundreds of people have staged a gay-pride parade in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Hundreds of riot police were deployed in the city center on September 20, with several armored and water cannon vehicles parked at main crossings in the downtown area where roads have been closed to traffic since the early morning.

Threats of disruption by far-right groups in past years had forced the government to cancel such events.

There were no reports of violence in Belgrade, where people waved rainbow flags and carried colorful balloons in a festive atmosphere.

Some of the opponents of the gay-pride parade in Belgrade
Some of the opponents of the gay-pride parade in Belgrade

But seven men wearing masks were arrested by police on suspicion of planning to attack participants in the parade. RFE/RL's Balkan Service says a total of 54 people were detained during the parade.

Marchers were joined by Serbia's European Integration Minister Jadranko Joksimovic, Culture and Information Minister Ivan Tasovac, and Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali.

Last year, Serbian gays and lesbians staged their first peaceful Belgrade Pride Parade in four years, in what was seen as a test for Serbia -- an EU hopeful -- and its commitment to protecting minority rights.

In 2010, during Belgrade's first-ever gay parade, hard-line nationalists attacked participants and clashed with police, wounding 150 people.

A few dozen counterdemonstrators stood near St. Mark's Church, many of them holding crosses and signs with religious sayings.

With reporting by AFP and Balkan Insight