Montenegro Pride Goes Ahead Marked by Police Clashes with Opponents

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Yesterday’s (October 20) LGBT Pride march in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, went ahead marked by clashes between police and counter-demonstrators, who tried to break through police lines to attack participants with stones and firebombs. Approximately 200 members of the city’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* communities came together for the march, the first in the city’s history, which was marked by the presence of 2,000 officers from Montenegro’s Police and Anti Terror forces.

Photo: Police lines at Sunday’s Podgorica pride march. Source: AFP/Savo Prelevic
A helicopter hovered above the crowds, along the parade route, as participants – many of them young people – carried banners and pride flags. Opponents, some several hundred and mostly teenagers, however gathered to disrupt and attack the march, hurling missiles and attempting to break through police lines at various points along the route. They reportedly also vandalised some shop fronts along the route.
Police fired tear gas in an effort to protect the march, whilst 60 people were injured; 20 police officers and 40 people from what they described as the ‘hooligan groups’, officials said.
Albanian Human Rights project Historia-ime.com reports that a number of counter-demonstrators took refuge in a nearby city church, and that – reportedly – a television station building was also attacked:
“Policemen were situated not only at the boulevard, in the streets and crossroads but also on the top of every building close to the march. The other parts of Podgorica especially the place where a recently inaugurated orthodox church is situated was almost occupied by the hooligans who found refuge from the police inside the church. The priests were in that moment preaching against the pride. Some sources said that the building of a television was also attacked, while the official website of some mainstream media were down after their traffic was extremely increased by readers in need to get information.”
monte-pride-2  Still from BBC news report (video): Source.
podgoric1
podgoric2Photos by Erjon Tela: Source.
One of the organisers, Danijel Kalezic, commented “As of today, gay people are no longer invisible in Montenegro… From today, these streets are ours as well.”
Sunday’s Podgorica pride is only the second ever pride march in the largely conservative Balkan country, after Budva pride was marked by similar clashes in July 2013.
Montenegro is in the process of applying for EU membership and securing space for public expression of LGBT rights is widely viewed as a test of the country’s commitment to human rights.
Minister for Human and Minority Rights, Suad Numanovic, spoke at a rally. “Montenegro has once again proved that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech is guaranteed to all regardless of their gender or creed.”
After the march the participants were evacuated in police vehicles to a safe location.
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