More than 100 Serbian policemen and civilians were injured and dozens more were arrested in skirmishes that broke out less than a mile from Belgrade’s first gay Pride Parade in nine years.
Police tossed tear-gas canisters to disperse anti-gay protesters and three fire trucks were dispatched to the headquarters of the Democratic party of Serbian President Boris Tadic, where a Molotov cocktail set part of the building on fire. In all, 85 police and more than a dozen civilians were hurt, while 60 protesters were arrested, said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Suzana Vasiljevic.
Gay activists were determined to restart the Pride Parade after giving up plans last year when police warned they could not protect them. The event was seen as a new test of tolerance in Serbia as it seeks to join the European Union. The parade ended in the Belgrade city center without incident as authorities kept the violence confined to another quarter of the capital city.
“It is clear now that this (violence) has nothing to do with the Pride Parade, but represents hatred unseen for quite some time,” Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac told Belgrade television Studio B.
Studio B showed clashes in central Belgrade, where strong police presence protected hundreds of gay rights activists, who strode through the streets of Belgrade for the first time since 2001, when the event ended in violence.
Yesterday, more than 2,000 people marched in Belgrade to oppose today’s event, calling for “respect of family values.” More than 50 percent of the nation and the Serbian Orthodox Church oppose public expression of sexual and gender identity.