Serbian police ban EuroPride march, citing security concerns

People celebrating EuroPride in Belgrade on September 12 – Photo: EuroPride, via Instagram.

Serbian police have banned a planned Pride march that was to be part of the week-long celebration of EuroPride in Belgrade, citing the threat of violence from far-right anti-gay activists.

In the weeks leading up to the festivities, which were due to run from September 12-18, socially conservative groups, including representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, staged regular demonstrations to protest the official EuroPride parade. , in which revelers were expected. to march through the city on September 17.

A Serbian Orthodox bishop, Nikanor Bogunovic, has condemned EuroPride, vowing to ‘curse’ its participants and saying that if he had a gun he would use it against people attending the event to display and celebrate the ‘homosexuality. The far-right political party Zaventnici (Keepers of the Oath) also staged a protest in August with tens of thousands of protesters calling on the Serbian government to cancel the parade.

On Sunday, the day before the scheduled launch of EuroPride, anti-Pride protesters including biker gangs, far-right groups and religious organizations staged a rally ‘for marriage and family’ demanding the cancellation of the parade.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has warned for weeks that the Pride march will be banned, arguing that police lack the manpower to protect Pride revelers from possible riots by right-wing groups.

Serbian government officials, including Vucic and the country’s lesbian prime minister, Ana Brnabic, said the country is currently facing more pressing issues that need to be addressed, including attempts to negotiate a successful peace between the government Serbia and the separatist province of Kosovo, and an energy crisis that has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reports the Associated Press.

“In the current geopolitical situation and the tensions in the region, senseless clashes in the streets of Belgrade would make the position of our country more difficult, (and) would endanger the safety of the participants in the marches, as well as that of other citizens” , said the Serbian interior. Minister Aleksandar Vulin said in a statement.

Serbia’s history and record on LGBTQ rights has been uneven. The country does not recognize same-sex marriages and despite pledges to support LGBTQ rights – as part of the country’s bid to restore its image as it seeks to join the European Union – little progress has been made. According to a 2020 survey According to Civil Rights Defenders, a Stockholm-based human rights organization, anti-LGBTQ attitudes persist in the country, with just over half of the population saying they view homosexuality as a disease.

Past attempts to organize LGBTQ events or Pride parades, in 2001 and 2010, have been met with violence, and despite largely peaceful Pride events taking place in Belgrade since 2014, religious groups continue to organizing counter-demonstrations, even planning to organize one on the same day as the EuroPride parade.

It is in this historical context, and in the hope of showing that Serbia had distanced itself from the influence of the Orthodox Church and its past social conservatism, that Belgrade was chosen as the host city of EuroPride. to the detriment of cities like Barcelona, ​​Dublin, and Lisbon. According to Kristine Garina, Latvian president of the European Association of Pride Organisers, organizers had hoped that Serbia, like fellow conservative Europeans Poland and Latvia – which hosted EuroPride in 2010 and 2015 – would be at the height of the occasion and would fulfill its obligations.

On Tuesday, Serbian police announced a ban on both the pride march and right-wing counter-protests, saying allowing either to go forward presented a ‘high risk’ for the safety of participants, as well as other citizens who may be harmed by the outbreak of violence.

EuroPride organizers have appealed the cancellation of the parade, with police rejecting their appeal on Wednesday. The organization countered on Twitter that she would file a lawsuit in the Serbian Administrative Court, promising to use all legal avenues and “all means available” to overturn the decision.

LGBTQ advocates have noted that past cancellations of Pride parades in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – all of which were canceled for “security concerns” – were ruled unconstitutional by the nation’s highest court.

Despite uncertainty over the status of the parade, festivities for the week-long celebration have already begun, including an opening ceremony which saw the Pride Flag hoisted over the Palace of Serbia – although, notably, Serbian government officials were absent from the event, according to TIME magazine.

EuroPride organizers have promised that participants – expected to number 10,000 – will take to the streets of Belgrade, if not for an official Pride march, then at least in protest.

It won’t be the same march as planned, but people will be on the streets,” Garina said. TIME, although she expressed hope that the justice system would eventually side with the organizers of EuroPride. “People are outraged and angry and people want to come out into the streets and express that emotion.”

Marko Mihailovic, the 29-year-old coordinator of this year’s EuroPride festivities, said the cancellation draws attention to systemic discrimination and a lack of political will in Serbia to stand up for LGBTQ rights, the British newspaper reports. The Guardian.

Even though it looks like the social conservatives were able to coerce the Serbian government into doing their bidding, Mihailovic says the cancellation controversy is “a victory for us because it exposes all the flaws in our system and the reality of the people who are in power.”


Comments are closed.