Serbian Authorities Cancel Belgrade Pride Over Safety Concerns
The Serbian government today cancelled what was to be the first Gay Pride in the nation's capital since 2001, citing safety concerns after nationalist and ultra-Orthodox groups threatened violence. Authorities had promised thousands of police officers would protect marchers, but today they backed down.
Organizers expressed dismay:
"A full security study was commissioned more than three months ago by pride organizers and executed by the university defense department constructing a detailed strategy for all logistical possibilities to carry out pride safely with full instructions for how police would secure pride participants entrance to the parade, their safety during the event and their ability to leave the event unmolested. This security study also made detailed recommendations for preventative measures that could be taken by police in the months leading up to pride to minimize the risk of violence. Police did not undertake these measures and despite months of meetings with pride organizers and daily meetings in the past two weeks have failed to act on security measures, instead choosing the tactic of pressurizing organizers to cancel the event. In the last 48 hours the police in meetings with pride organizers refused all cooperation for the securing of the pride, applying further pressure to organizers to cancel. Police refused to take responsibility for maintaining public order during the event. Instead telling the Pride organizers that they would be held responsible for any public damage caused by the hooligans and fascist groups who have been organizing a violent response to Pride."
Anti-gay forces rejoiced over the cancellation:
"The ultra-nationalist Serb Popular Movement 1389 hailed the cancellation of the march as 'a great victory for normal Serbia.' The group said it would be going ahead with its own demonstration planned at the philosophy faculty at 8:00 am (0600 GMT), three hours before the Gay Pride would have begun, for a 'non-violent and non-deviant popular Serb rally.' ... 'In our city, infidels and Satanists will not pass,' it added...Belgrade Pride organisers had also called on the Serbian Orthodox Church to make an appeal for calm. But the Church said it could not accept the event, calling it a 'Shame Parade, Parade of Sodom and Gomorrah'. Ultra-nationalist group, Nasi (Ours), warned that 'European Union and American leaders who support (homosexuals) should know that as long as there are Orthodox Serbs there will be no homosexual parade in Serbia.'"
Police offered alternative locations on the edge of town. March organizers called them "unacceptable", and said Serbia's "test of democracy" failed: "The state has failed the fundamental test. The next exam period is approaching fast. The Republic of Serbia has capitulated. We have not."