Amid threats of violence, Serbian gay
rights leaders have canceled their September 20 Gay Pride Parade, the
A counter demonstration being organized
by the ultra-nationalist Serb Popular Movement 1389 is expected to
take place as planned. The group hailed the cancellation of the
march as “a great victory for normal Serbia.”
Pride Parade organizers said they
expected the march to draw about 1000 people to the streets of
Belgrade, Serbia's capital and one of Europe's oldest cities.
Anti-gay graffiti warning “We are
expecting you!” had been left on buildings in the capital.
On Friday, Serbian President Boris
Tadic promised to protect the parade, saying, “The state will do
everything to protect people, whatever their national, religious,
sexual or political orientation, and no group must resort to threats
and violence, or take justice into its own hands and jeopardize the
lives of those who think or are different.”
But during a meeting with Prime
Minister Mirko Cvektovic organizers say authorities told them they
could not guarantee protection for the event. Organizers rejected a
change of venue suggested by police.
“We were told in the meeting with
Prime Minister Cvektovic that the gathering is impossible for
security reasons and that we should choose another location,” said
Dragana Vuckovic, a spokesperson for the organizing Pride Parade
“Taking the Pride Parade to another
location is simply not acceptable,” Vuckovic said. “Pride
parades are traditionally organized in the main streets of big cities
and the message is that groups kept on the fringes of a society need
to be integrated.”
The parade was widely seen as a major
test for the government, which has been pushing pro-Western reforms
in an effort to boost its European Union application. A law banning
discrimination against gay men and lesbians was approved by the
government over the loud objections of nationalists and religious
leaders in March.
A 2001 gay rights march ended in
violence when police failed to protect marchers from nationalists.