January 27, 2023

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Serious incidents in Belgrade at the LGBTQ march, organized despite the authorities’ ban. PHOTO and VIDEO GALLERY

Thousands of members of the LGBTQ community marched in Belgrade on Saturday under high police protection, despite the ban on this Europride march by the authorities, who detained around 30 people.

The parade, intended to be the culmination of this pan-European event that takes place every year in a different city, took place without any notable incident. But, according to local media, clashes took place between counter-demonstrators and the police.

The Serbian Interior Ministry had banned the march on Tuesday, citing security concerns, while far-right groups threatened to stage their own demonstrations after a series of anti-parade demonstrations in the capital.

Despite the ban, the demonstrators were able to walk a few hundred meters in the rain, between the Constitutional Council and a nearby park, i.e. a much shorter route compared to the originally planned march.

Heavy anti-riot police forces were deployed around the demonstrators and pushed back small groups of counter-demonstrators waving crosses and religious symbols, according to AFP.

The Ministry of the Interior had also banned any counter-demonstration, but on far-right discussion forums, some users had declared that they would protest against the march.

According to the ministry, 31 people were detained. The authorities did not specify what it was about, but AFP journalists saw several counter-demonstrators being arrested.

According to the N1 television channel, clashes took place between the police and counter-demonstrators, the latter launching smoke grenades against the police, several of whose vehicles were damaged.

The ban on the march had caused consternation among non-governmental human rights organizations.

It’s a “shameful capitulation and implicit endorsement of intolerance and threats of illegal violence,” according to Graeme Reid, director of LGBTQ rights programs at Human Rights Watch.

Serbia was the object of intense international pressure: more than 20 embassies, including those of the USA, France, Germany and Japan, had asked in a statement to reconsider the decision.

Serbia has been a candidate for the European Union for a decade, but member states have expressed concerns about its human rights record over the years.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in this country of fewer than seven million people, where homophobia is deeply rooted, despite some progress against discrimination.

The pride march of 2001, and then the one of 2010, were targets of the extreme right and were marked by violence.

Since 2014, the march has been taking place without notable incidents, but under strong police protection.

Last weekend, thousands of people, motorcycle gangs, Orthodox priests and far-right nationalists took to the streets to demand the cancellation of the parade.

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