Bulgaria: Homophobia blights planned date of Sofia Pride, now postponed

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The sixth LGBT Pride march due to take place in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia yesterday was postponed as anti-corruption protests swept the city. LGBT activists who attended the anti-corruption demonstrations were then turned on by fellow protesters.

A pride march was planned to take place on Saturday, but earlier this week the organizing committee of Sofia Pride announced that the march would be postponed due to protest rallies against government corruption, which have gone on for over a week.

With a statement of support for the protests, Sofia Pride 2013’s organizers agreed with the municipality to postpone the march to a later date. They agreed that security risks were created by the concentration of events, and by a clash between the planned Pride route and the route to be taken by protesters.

However, an anti-Pride march did go ahead on Saturday. Around 50 people marched in support of the Christian family and against “propaganda of homosexuality” – a concept borrowed from Russia’s anti-gay bill approved in the Duma this month. Marchers also promoted the message that homosexuality is “connected” with paedophilia.

On Saturday evening, the largest anti-corruption protest since the events began over a week ago took place, with tens of thousands of people marching on Sofia’s streets.

The organizing committee of Sofia Pride was there to give out 1,000 rainbow peace flags with Bulgaria’s national flag on the reverse side.

Attendance had dropped by 9:00 PM after the main protests had ended, but many demonstrators remained. A small LGBT group reported that while they were sitting on the street their signs were taken away and vandalized by an unknown young man. Several other people started harassing them. The police responded by asking the LGBT group to leave the protest because they were “provoking people with their signs”, which the group refused to do.

They were then harassed again, this time by the spokeswoman of the Association of Bulgarian Football Fans, Elena Vatashka, who herself grabbed the sign of one of the protesters and destroyed it. The protester tried to retrieve the sign but was attacked by several football fans, who only backed off after being shouted down by protesters.

The police refused to take action, stating that they had already intervened.

Earlier this year, Ms Vatashka was responsible for a campaign to ban Sofia Pride, which gathered 10,000 signatures. She was also a candidate in the last parliamentary elections, on the list of the Bulgarian National Movement.

A week ago, a homophobic attack was held against a gay film fest in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Several football hooligans entered a screening and started yelling anti-gay slurs, calling it a “faggot film”. They also broke projection equipment.

Last year, the fifth annual Pride in Sofia was marred by calls for violence from Father Evgeni Yanakiev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to which most Bulgarians belong.

Father Yanakiev said: “Our whole society must in every possible way oppose the gay parade that is being planned. For this reason today I appeal to all those who consider themselves Christians and Bulgarians. Throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way.”