After weeks of heated debate and anticipation, the Serbian government decided to ban Belgrade Pride, for the 3rd year running – just 20 hours before it was due to take place on Saturday (September 28). Hours later, from about 11pm local time, at least 200 LGBTI activists took to the streets regardless, gathering in front of the Serbian Government building in Nemanjina street and marching to the Parliament building in Bulevar kralja Aleksandra, in what some have described as a ‘Serbian Stonewall’.
Belgrade Pride 2013: LGBTI activists outside Serbian Parliament. Source. Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic announced on September 28 that the planned event would have to be cancelled after far-right groups threatened protests. The last pride to be held in Belgrade – in 2010 – ended in violence, after police clashed with several thousand anti-gay protestors who had organised in response. At least 124 police and around 20 civilians were injured as a response and, since then, all attempts to organise have met with state prohibition. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a statement that the decision to ban this year’s parade was regrettable. Fuele said, “It is a missed opportunity to show respect for fundamental rights.” Serbia has been a candidate for EU membership since mid-2012, and Belgrade is expected to open accession talks with Brussels in January 2014. The United States embassy also issued a statement saying it was “very disappointed” by the parade ban. Uncertainty had hung over the planned event for weeks before. Earlier on Friday the government announced that the parade would go ahead, and that 6,500 police officers had been designated to ensure its safety. However, later on Friday, just 20 hours before the parade was due to set off, the Prime Minister’s office confirmed rumors of a ban, citing ‘security risks’. One of many international LGBTI activists present, Kristi Pinderi from Albania, reported: ‘Some hundreds LGBT activists marched on Friday night at the main streets of Belgrade in what should be called the most peaceful and original pride parade, very similar to the time of Stonewall. Soon after they learned that authorities banned the pride the activists were promptly organized and around 11 p.m. they gathered in hundreds in front of the Prime Minister office. The police was there immediately but they could not stop anymore the activists who started to march in the streets joyfully and shouting “We don’t give up!”. Later this afternoon Ivica Dacic PM, as one year ago, stated that for “security reasons” the pride could not be held. It is important to ask him now: where were the extremists when the activists marched and stood enough time in front of the symbolic building of the Parliament?! “There are no more workshops and conferences inside! This is the real activism”, said a girl from Belgrade. During all the parade that started as a protest the activists were joyful and they should: it was the most peaceful, beautiful and probably the first real pride parade in the history of Belgrade.’ Local activists report that the Parade went ahead without violent incident.