Serbian Pride set to go ahead on Saturday despite threats of violence

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Gay rights activists in Serbia have said that they expect to hold their first Pride march in three years on Saturday, despite the threat of violence from right-wing extremists.

Speaking at a news conference, organiser Goran Miletic said: “As far as we’re concerned, it is certain [to go ahead].”

He added: “We are working out all the details with the police, but we haven’t heard their security assessment yet.”

The government says no final decision has been taken pending a security assessment by police, but Reuters reports that one cabinet minister has said he will join the march, indicating it will likely go ahead.

In 2010, a Pride march was held in Belgrade for the first time since 2001, attracting around 600 LGBT supporters. However, the event was marred by violence after more than 20,000 people held a counter-protest which left 150 people – mostly police officers – injured.

Conservative and nationalist groups have again called for counter-protests during the march, increasing the risk of unrest. Saturday’s matches of the Serbian football league in Belgrade have also been postponed to Sunday as a precautionary measure.

Authorities took down traffic signs in some parts of downtown Belgrade on Thursday where clashes broke out in 2010, in anticipation of them being torn out and used as weapons.

Bosko Obradovic, a senior member of the right-wing Dveri party, denounced the march, saying: “This amounts to the imposition of foreign and unsuitable values, laid out before the most vulnerable section of society – minors.”

The Serbian Orthodox Church added: “In our tragic times, nothing is more jeopardized than marriage and family.

“Both are being systematically destroyed, especially by gay pride.”

Pride marches in Serbia have been banned for the last two year over concerns the violence that accompanied the 2010 event could be repeated.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, who is also the police chief, said at the time: “We believe that at this moment Serbia does not need clashes and victims, and that’s why we banned the gatherings”.

Mr Dadic said on Wednesday that this year’s march would go ahead unless the security assessment suggested there would be a grave threat to public safety.

Asked if he would attend, Dacic replied: “No. Do I have to become gay?”

In June, it was reported that the first LGBT community centre to open in Belgrade had become the target of surveillance from nationalist groups, who said they wanted to protect the neighbourhood from “prostitution.”