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EuroPride 2022 ends with no major incidents or disruptions

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people, advocates, activists and allies marched under rainy skies in the Serbian capital Saturday afternoon

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EuroPride Pride march September 17, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia (Photo Credit: EuroPride)

BELGRADE- As thousands of LGBTQ+ people, advocates, activists and allies marched under rainy skies in the Serbian capital Saturday afternoon, there were only minor clashes between anti-LGBTQ+ protestors and Serbian Police, who had been deployed in overwhelming force along the parade route.

According to the Serbian Ministry of Interior nearly 6,000 uniformed police in riot gear and accompanied by plainclothes security personnel cordoned off the march area around the Constitutional Court in Central Belgrade. The Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin had warned in a statement that “we will not tolerate any violence in Belgrade streets, any more than illegal marches.”

European media outlets France 24 and Agence Presse France reported that 64 people were arrested as anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrators clashed with police in attempts to disrupt the Pride march. Once group of half a dozen people carrying crosses and religious icons managed to get past police cordons to where the EuroPride parade participants were gathering, treading on the rainbow flag which was on the road, praying and singing. Police managed to remove them in minutes.

Serbian state media outlets reported that anti-pride protesters were also stopped by police in riot gear at the central Slavija square. The large group of protesters wanted to get past the cordon and head towards the parade gathering.

An N1 reporter said that a large group of football hooligans clashed with police near St Sava Temple, throwing firecrackers and torches at the police. The police cordon managed to push them back.

“I am here to preserve Serbian traditions, faith and culture which are being destroyed by sodomites,” Andrej Bakic, 36, a counter-protester in a group surrounded by riot police told AFP on Saturday.

During a routine Saturday press conference at the end of last month Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital city from September 12-18 was cancelled.

The Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Reaction to the Serbian leader’s remarks was swift with the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride writing in a statement that any ban would be in violation of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to human rights and protections for sexual minorities.

The government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its late August decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event this past Thursday, Serbian state media reported.

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Serbia, where homophobia remains deep-seated despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.

More than 20 embassies — including the US, France and Britain — had issued a joint statement urging the authorities to lift the ban.

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

Media outlet euronews reported that a group of about 10 Albanian LGBTQ+ activists, who had attended the EuroPride parade were attacked by Serbian extremists, but the attack occurred roughly a couple of hours after the parade had ended as the Albanians were apparently headed into their hotel. 

A local journalist, Isa Myzyraj , said that 2 of the group ended up in hospital.  He added that the group was not identifying themselves as parade participants with clothing signs etc. and that even though the Serbian police were literally not but a few meters away they didn’t intervene. 

The attackers were thought to be far right nationalists who were still in the area after the parade ended.  Myzyraj said that he was not sure if the Albanian group was attacked specifically because of being LGBTQ+ or if their nationality played a role. 

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European Union

Serbian government U-turns on ban of EuroPride parade

“Serbia has made important steps towards strengthening equality for LGBTIQ+ people and their rights to non-discrimination”

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Belgrade Pride in 2019 (Photo Credit: Belgrade Pride)

BELGRADE – The government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its late August decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event Thursday, Serbian state media reported.

The Serbian government informed the European Commission and the European Pride Organizers Association, that licenses EuroPride, the march would take place as planned although Serbian authorities altered the pathway with a new shorter route.

The parade commence at 5pm local time outside the Constitutional Court near the National Assembly of Serbia, and walk to the Tasmajdan Stadium where a concert and formal closing ceremony of EuroPride will take place.

On September 12, officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride, commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade with a ceremonial flag raising. On Friday led by the Dutch Embassy, members of the European Union and other non-EU states issued a joint statement applauding the Serbian government’s roll-back of the ban.

“Serbia has made important steps towards strengthening equality for LGBTIQ+ people and their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence. Hosting EuroPride in Belgrade is a celebration and an acknowledgement of that progress.

“We commit to listening and supporting the work of grassroots human rights defenders, civil society organizations, and community leaders. Their work on the frontlines makes a positive impact on LGBTIQ+ rights, often at a personal risk.”

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Massive far-right protests as EuroPride commences in Belgrade

On Sunday several thousands of protesters took to the streets many carrying huge Serbian & Russian flags & chanting anti-LGBTQ+ slogans

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U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Christopher R. Hill with EuroPride & Belgrade Pride officials marking start of EuroPride 2022 (Photo Credit: Embassy of the United States, Belgrade/EuroPride)

BELGRADE – Officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in the Serbian capital with a ceremonial flag raising Monday as the event gets underway this week.

Concerns however, have been raised over safety for attendees and participants in the wake of massive anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations and the government of Serbia issuing a ban.

During a routine Saturday press conference two weeks ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held from September 12-18 was cancelled.

In his remarks the Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Undaunted, EuroPride and Belgrade Pride defiantly announced that the event would go on as scheduled.

“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” the President of the European Pride Organisers Association Kristine Garina said.

“During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured,” she added.

The kick-off was also attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher R. Hill, who tweeted:

“Gratified to see a safe, secure start to #EuroPride2022. Congratulations @BelgradePride, @CDREurope, and the entire team of organizers behind @EuroPride. Looking forward to a week of great events with safety, security, and basic freedoms guaranteed for all.”

On Sunday, Sept. 11, several thousands of protesters took to the streets of Belgrade, many carrying huge Serbian and Russian flags, chanting pro-Russia, pro-Putin and anti-LGBTQ+ slogans and marching to Belgrade’s St Sava cathedral for prayers.

Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porfirije led clerics and faithful in a prayer “for the sanctity of marriage and family” that accused “invisible forces” of imposing “ungodly and unnatural unions as a substitute for marriage and family.”

Radio Free Europe/Liberty reported that Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is openly lesbian and was a participant in a 2017 Pride event in Belgrade, declined to intervene to support holding the EuroPride events in light of the ban decreed by President Vucic.

She responded angrily on September 12 to a local newspaper editor who accused Brnabic of selling out the LGBT community to become a “Progressive,” a reference to Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), which she joined after becoming prime minister as an independent five years ago.

Brnabic accused the editor and other “enlightened elites” of cubbyholing gay people as incapable of holding diverse political views.

“[To them] if you’re gay, you can only be gay, period. It’s the only thing that defines you,” Brnabic tweeted. “You are not the prime minister — but LGBT.”

The translation of the tweet below reads: “The essence of discrimination that the “enlightened elite” neither sees nor cares about. If you’re gay, you can just be gay, period. It’s the only thing that defines you. You are not the prime minister – but LGBT. You are not a member of SNS – but LGBT. And they don’t see a single problem with it, they think it’s something smart.”

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

On Tuesday morning Sept. 13, the European Union’s Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued a statement regarding Serbia’s stance on EuroPride and the ban by President Vucic:

“It is highly regrettable that the Serbian authorities have decided to ban the Europride march scheduled for 17 September. Weeks of uncertainty concerning the holding of this march have sent a wrong message to the public and made space for hateful rhetoric and more threats against LGBTI people, including from religious leaders”, said

“Instead of bowing to threats and hate by banning the Europride march, the Serbian authorities have the responsibility to ensure that everyone in society can exercise their right to enjoy the same freedoms and is equal in dignity.” Mijatović said

“Instead of bowing to threats and hate by banning the Europride march, the Serbian authorities have the responsibility to ensure that everyone in society can exercise their right to enjoy the same freedoms and is equal in dignity,” Mijatović noted continuing:

“As I have stressed in my conversations with the Serbian authorities at the highest level over the past two weeks, the fact that Europride takes place in Serbia this week is also of great significance for the south-eastern European region, where much still needs to be done to combat discrimination and hate against LGBTI people. Hosting Europride sends the signal that the march toward equality is in progress. It is positive that Pride marches have taken place peacefully in recent years in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Tirana, Podgorica and Skopje and I call on the Serbian authorities to be on the right side of history by enabling a peaceful and safe Europride march next Saturday.”

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Serbia says EuroPride cancelled; organizers say ‘Not so fast’

“The Prime Minister promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured”

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Out Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic (Screenshot/YouTube AFP)

BELGRADE – During a routine Saturday press conference Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the international EuroPride event scheduled to be held in the Serbian capital city from September 12-18 was cancelled.

In his remarks the Serbian leader told reporters that his government had come under intense pressure from far right-wing groups and the leadership of the Serbian Orthodox Church to cancel the event. Vucic acknowledged that LGBTQ+ rights and people in the Balkan nation were under siege and threatened. However he deflected on the issue, “It is not a question of whether [those pressures] are stronger,” he said. “It’s just that at some point you can’t achieve everything, and that’s it.”

Reaction to the Serbian leader’s remarks was swift with the European Pride Organizers Association that licenses EuroPride writing in a statement that any ban would be in violation of articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in regards to human rights and protections for sexual minorities.

“President Vucic cannot cancel someone else’s event. EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” the President of the European Pride Organisers Association Kristine Garina said.

“During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured,” she said continuing:

“Aside from the illegality of such a ban, it must be noted that those opposing EuroPride in Belgrade are using tired old tropes, inaccuracies and downright lies to discredit what is, in fact, a celebration of human rights and equality. They say that we are against family values, when all of us comes from a family and many of us have families of our own. They say that we are child abusers, when we all stand firm against all child abuse. They claim that Serbian authorities have invested €40 million into EuroPride, despite the event costing a fraction of this and not receiving any funds from government. Every one of their claims is a lie, and to try to ban EuroPride would mean authorities had fallen for their lies.”

“EuroPride in Belgrade will not be cancelled and will bring together thousands of LGBTI+ people from across Europe with LGBTI+ people from Serbia and the wider western Balkans. It will bring many millions of Dinar into the local economy, and allow Serbia to show that it is on the road to being a progressive, welcoming European nation. What Serbian authorities must do is stand firm against these bullies, and protect the event,” Garina said.

In Belgrade, an activist with Belgrade Pride, Marko Mihailovic tweeted:

“The state cannot cancel EuroPride – it can only try to ban it, which would be a clear violation of the Constitution as well as the judgment of the Constitutional Court banning Pride from 2011, 12, 13. year declare unconstitutional.
Pride takes place as planned on September 17. at 5 pm in front of the National Assembly!”

There has been violence at previous Pride events being held in the Serbian Capital city, most notably on October 10, 2010 when anti-LGBTQ+ and ultra nationalist anti-government protesters fought with about 5,000 armed Serbian police resulting in 78 police officers and 17 civilians that were injured some seriously and over 100 arrests and detentions.

The violence also severely damaged the car-park building of the ruling pro-European Democratic Party in an act of arson, the state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also damaged.

The rioting came as Serbia was seeking admittance as a European Union member state.

A spokesperson for the ILGA-Europe said that since 2014 Pride events were held in Belgrade under mostly peaceful conditions, but there is extreme pushback from the ultra-nationalist groups and especially those groups aligned with the Orthodox Church.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is a lesbian, and her partner joined the Pride marches since 2017 although in 2019 more than 100 far-right activists gathered, some holding Orthodox Christian banners and crosses and singing religious songs.

Serbian Police scuffled with several after they refused to move from the route of the march, and at least five people were detained Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reported at the time.

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