Religious and far-right mob stages chilling march against Pride in Serbia

thousands of demonstrators gather in Belgrade to protest Pride

Thousands of religious and far-right protesters marched through Serbia’s capital Belgrade on Sunday (11 September) to oppose Pride events planned in the city.

The pan-European Pride event EuroPride is set to be hosted by Belgrade, for a week of LGBTQ+ celebrations, starting Monday (12 September). EuroPride 2022 marks the first time the event has been hosted in south-east Europe and outside the EEA (European Economic Area).

But the day before the event kicked off, thousands of protesters took to the streets carrying huge Serbian and Russian flags, chanting pro-Russia and anti-LGBTQ+ slogans and marching to Belgrade’s St Sava cathedral for prayers.

Protesters carry a 500m long Russian and Serbian national flags banner at the protest

Protesters carry a 500m long Russian and Serbian national flags banner at the protest. (AFP via Getty/ OLIVER BUNIC)

Much of Serbia’s population is a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church and, lagging behind most of Europe, same-sex marriage is illegal in the country.

According to Reuters, the head of the church, Patriarch Porfirije, told protesters: “They want to desecrate the sanctity of marriage and the family and impose an unnatural union as a substitute for marriage.”

But Pride organisers insist the EuroPride programme will go ahead, including the Belgrade Pride march on Saturday (17 September).

Belgrade Pride first took place in 2001, and was marred by violence. Following that attempt, the march did not take place again until 2010, when events turned violent again, with more than 100 people injured.

thousands of demonstrators gather in Belgrade to protest Pride

Thousands of demonstrators protested against the upcoming EuroPride event in the Serbian capital Belgrade.(AFP via Getty/ OLIVER BUNIC)

While the event has taken place more peacefully in recent years, in August, amid threats of far-right violence, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vučić announced EuroPride 2022 would be cancelled. 

However, organisers defiantly refused to back down, and Kristine Garina, president of the European Pride Organisers Association, said: “President Vučić cannot cancel someone else’s event.

“EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled. During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, prime minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured.

“EuroPride in Belgrade will not be cancelled and will bring together thousands of LGBTI+ people from across Europe with LGBTI+ people from Serbia and the wider western Balkans.

“It will bring many millions of dinar into the local economy, and allow Serbia to show that it is on the road to being a progressive, welcoming European nation. What Serbian authorities must do is stand firm against these bullies, and protect the event.”

According to organisers, EuroPride in Belgrade will demand Serbia legalise same-sex unions, improve trans rights, condemn and tackle hate speech and hate-motivated crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, implement inclusive education, make PrEP free and accessible, and formally apologise for the historic persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the country.