Monday, October 21, 2013, 00:01 by Reuters
Montenegrins staged their first gay pride march yesterday in the capital under heavy police guard, part of the Balkan state’s efforts to bolster its application to join the EU by showing its commitment to human rights.
After a tense but incident-free march by around 150 people, guarded by almost 2,000 police, scuffles broke out in several places between police and people opposed to same sex rights.
Police used teargas to disperse them, a Reuters reporter said.
The half-hour walk through the centre of the capital Podgorica was the second attempt to hold a gay pride march in Montenegro, a mountainous country of 680,000 people that began EU accession talks last year.
In July, protesters chanting “Kill the gays” clashed with police protecting about 40 marchers in the coastal town of Budva.
This time, streets were cordoned off and uniformed policemen were deployed on the roofs of nearby buildings while a police helicopter hovered above the scene.
“We were up against enormous challenges but we did it... from this day we are no longer invisible,” said Danijel Kalezic, the head of Queer Montenegro who organised the march.
“This was the first Pride and every year there will be more and more of us,” he said.
The small column of gay rights supporters, including a number of human rights activists and journalists, carried banners that read “These streets belong to us, too” and “Everyone has their own right”.
Gay pride marches are now routinely held in Montenegro’s Adriatic neighbour Croatia, which joined the EU in July, but same-sex rights remain stifled in the conservative, patriarchal societies of most of the Balkans.