LGBTQ+ community marches at Belgrade Pride in face of far-right violence

This photo shows riot police protecting participants at Belgrade Pride

Belgrade Pride was marred by violence on Saturday (17 September), as far-right protesters hurled stun grenades, stones and flares.

The pan-European Pride event EuroPride 2022 was hosted by Belgrade, and involved a week of events before the march on Saturday.

According to AP News, Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabic said that 5,200 police officers were dispatched to the event in an attempt to protect Pride-goers from far-right attacks.

Nevertheless, ultraconservative protesters threw stun grenades, flares and rocks at the march and the police cordon, with police in riot gear and defending the Pride event with batons. The violence resulted in 64 arrests and 10 injured police officers.

When the march, which was initially banned before being reinstated with a shorter route, passed a church, bells incessantly rang out to show the Orthodox Church’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights.

Journalist and researcher Michael Colborne, who monitors far-right activity, reported that the far-right protesters also assaulted journalists covering the event, and chanted: “Kill all f****ts.”

Other tweets and video clips from the march show hooligans shouting Nazi slogans while Pride-goers attempted to drown them out.

Although the country is seeking to join the European Union, in recent years Serbia’s far-right has become even more hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community, and has shown increasing sympathy with Russia.

The country’s president Aleksandar Vučić initially said that Belgrade Pride would be “postponed or cancelled” amid rising tension with neighbouring Kosovo, but EuroPride refused to back down, saying the president “cannot cancel someone else’s event”.

Ahead of the first day of EuroPride 2022 (Monday 12 September), thousands of religious and right-wing homophobes staged march through the streets of Belgrade in protest of EuroPride, led by the Serbian Orthodox Church, saying the event threatened traditional family values.

But despite the best efforts of the far-right, Pride attendees reported that participants remained safe, and marched to demand that 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.

This photo shows Pride-goers celebrating a waving various Pride flags

Pride-goers wave Pride flags in Belgrade. (Getty/ Andreea Campeanu)

Christopher Street Day Berlin organisers wrote on Twitter: “It was the most intense and impressive and important Pride we’ve ever marched in. Lots of police. Big security and safety restrictions. We have to support East European LGBTQ+ people more. Together we are stronger. United in love.”

Following the event, Belgrade Pride organiser Goran Miletic shared on Twitter: “We said we would walk. We walked. We will walk again.”