Serbia: Hundreds of LGBT activists gather to defy gay pride ban in Belgrade

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Gay rights activists in Serbia held their first Pride march in three years on Saturday, despite officials banning the ceremony over threats of violence from right-wing extremists.

Hundreds of activists gathered on the streets of Belgrade last night, following through with plans to defy the Government’s banning of the pride march that was expected to take place on Sunday.

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

Last night saw the march go ahead uninterrupted, despite heavy police presence.

According to those involved, the march was “the most peaceful and original pride parade, very similar to the time of Stonewall.”

One of the campaigners said: “There are no more workshops and conferences inside! This is the real activism!”

They also commented on the absence of the threat from right-wing extremists, saying: “It is important to ask (the Prime Minister) now: where were the extremists when the activists marched and stood enough time in front of the symbolic building of the Parliament?”

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.

Authorities had expressed concerns that this week’s planned event could have led to a repeat of 2010′s violence.

Deputy Prime Minister in Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic said the ban was “in the interest of the citizens”. He insisted that ”hooligans have not defeated the state.”

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 previously said 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.”

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