Arrests in Belgrade after clashes between police and protesters at Europride rally

Police arrested 64 people in Belgrade on Saturday as LGBT activists gathered for a Eurobride rally despite a government ban.
The event was intended to serve as a cornerstone for the EuroPride rally.
But the Interior Ministry banned the march earlier this week, citing security concerns, after right-wing groups threatened to stage protests.

Despite the official ban, protesters were able to walk in the rain hundreds of meters from the Constitutional Court to a nearby park, a much shorter route than organizers originally planned.

Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin insisted that the ban was in place and that people were “only escorted to a concert”.

Local media reported that a skirmish erupted outside the event, and a group of rioters threw flares at the police.

The Prime Minister of the Balkan country, Anna Brnabic – who is openly gay – said 64 people were arrested and 10 police officers were injured on Saturday but stressed she was “proud” that the day ended with “no major incidents”.

Anti-LGBT protesters are blocked by police officers in front of St Mark’s Church during the EuroPride rally in Belgrade, Serbia, on September 17, 2022. source: AAP / Environmental Protection Agency

country’s future

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Serbia, where homophobia remains rooted despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.

“This is much more than gay pride,” Serbian Luka Mazante Jovicevich told AFP. “We are fighting for the future of the country.”

Model and activist Yasmine Benoit said she has participated in several gay pride parades, “but this show is more stressful than the others.”
“I’m from the UK where everyone is more supportive and it’s more commercial,” she told AFP. “But here, that’s what Pride should be… standing up to the forces that want to stop us.”

There was a heavy police presence around the Pride march, as officers pushed back small groups of anti-demonstrators waving crosses and religious insignia.

Serbia Europride

Anti-LGBT protesters are guarded by security ahead of the EuroPride rally in Belgrade, Serbia, on September 17, 2022. source: AAP / Environmental Protection Agency

“I am here to preserve Serbian traditions, beliefs and culture that are being destroyed by sodomy,” Andrej Bakić, 36, a counter-demonstrator in a group surrounded by riot police told AFP.

The Balkan country, a candidate for EU membership, has come under intense international pressure to allow the march. More than 20 embassies – including the US, France and Britain – issued a joint statement urging authorities to lift the ban.

Prevent counter-protests

“We as activists will use our democratic right to civil disobedience and protest,” Belgrade Pride organizers said on Saturday after their appeals court rejected the ban.

The Ministry of the Interior also banned any counter-protests, but some far-right groups gathered in front of several churches in Belgrade.

“We will not tolerate any violence in the streets of Belgrade, more than illegal rallies,” Interior Minister Alexander Vulin warned in a statement.
The US embassy urged its citizens to avoid the event “due to the possibility of unruly crowds and violence, as well as the imposition of fines.”

Human rights groups and the European Union have called on the Serbian government to scrap the ban.

Show solidarity

“The Serbian government’s decision to scrap EuroPride is a shameful capitulation and implicit punishment for bigotry and the threat of unlawful violence,” said Graeme Reed, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.

At least 15 members of the European Parliament joined the Pride Parade to show solidarity.

Belgrade Pride rallies in 2001 and again in 2010 were marred by violence and riots after the event was targeted by far-right groups.
Since 2014, the show has been staged regularly without any noticeable disruptions but has been protected by a large law enforcement presence.

The official ban came just days after thousands attended an anti-Pride rally in Belgrade, with biker gangs, Orthodox priests and far-right nationalists calling for the EuroPride rally to be cancelled.

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