Friday, 25 September 2009

Times: Nationalists rejoice after Belgrade Gay Pride cancelled

Sunday, 20th September 2009


A banner referring to the gay pride parade was displayed among supporters of Partizan Belgrade FC, during the UEFA Europa league football match against Toulouse in Belgrade last Thursday.

Organisers of a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade yesterday called off the march after the government said it could not prevent clashes with extremists, rejecting a suggestion to shift the venue.

The event would have been the first for nearly a decade since the last gay rights march broke up amid violent clashes with right-wing extremists.

Nationalists hailed the cancellation saying it was a defeat for "infidels and Satanists".

Organiser Dragana Vuckovic told B92 television that Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic "handed us a paper informing us that the parade was not possible (in central Belgrade) because the risks were too high".

Vuckovic said organisers cancelled the event, planned for today, after police suggested it could instead take place in a field.

"That would be unacceptable for us. As a result we decided to cancel the event," she told AFP. The Beta news agency said police had proposed Usce, a large open space across the Sava river from the city centre, to host the event. It had been planned for outside the philosophy faculty in the middle of Belgrade.

"The message of equal rights is transmitted symbolically when a group on the margins is able to parade in the centre of the capital," Vuckovic said. She said the organisers were calling on the government to open an investigation to determine who had threatened the march.

Vuckovic hailed messages of support from the authorities and vowed to try again next year but alleged there had been "operational obstructions" to staging the parade.

President Boris Tadic warned Friday against creating an "atmosphere of chaos" and "threats and violence" in Belgrade after two French football fans were injured in a clash with fans of Partizan Belgrade. Football supporters are prominent in the nationalist and right-wing groups which had threatened violence against participants in the gay rights march.

"The state will do everything to protect people, whatever their national, religious, sexual or political orientation, and no group must resort to threats and violence, or take justice into its own hands and jeopardise the lives of those who think or are different," Tadic said.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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