This past weekend, Belgrade was the scene of protests and violence as Serbia held its first ever Gay Parade. On Saturday October 9th, up to 20,000 people held an anti-Gay protest demonstration. The protest while boisterous and rowdy was calm in comparison to what had occured the following day. On Sunday October 10th, the Gay Parade was took place with lots of violence. On that day, Belgrade resembled a war zone.
A wide swath of central Belgrade from Knez Mihajlova in downtown to Kalenic Market at the edge of the city centre was ruined. Shop windows were broken and goods from boutiques were looted. Half of the ruling Democratic Party Headquarters on Krunska street was burnt to the ground. Hooligans inflicted more than one million Euros in property damage. Property damage was the least of the trouble. According to local media reports more than 140 persons were injured including up to 80 police officers. Police made more than 250 arrests with another 300 persons wanted.
Unlike 2009, when the government was forced to cancel the parade with the reason that it could not gurantee the safety of parade participants and the general public as well, this year was a vast improvement as the police were performed their job properly fully protected the gay parade members. As Belgrade was invaded mostly by anti-gay rioters who swarmed into the city from remote villages and towns in Serbia spreading fear, hatred as they launched Molotov cocktails, the supporters of the gay parade had their party inside the confines of Belgrade’s Student Culture Centre. The party was scheduled to end at 3pm but ended 90 minutes earlier as thousands of violent homophobes waited for the party to end in order to kill. At the conclusion of the party police took the supporters by police vans and drove them safely out of harms way. The most remarkable thing on a day of remarkable events was that not one Gay participant nor their allies were injured.
However, one must draw the correct conclusions about what occured over the weekend in Belgrade. There are many questions regrading the government’s decision to allow the parade as well as questions as to who was actually behind the organisation of the Gay Parade in the first place. Why had the government reacted like this? After all, it had only a year ago they cancelled the parade yet this year they acted like someone who does care about gay rights. In all honesty, the government doesn’t give a damn about gays and lesbian opression but being under the pressure of the West and EU it was forced to act. Homophobia is very deep and if the government really cared about their rights they would make it happen in some other way. Serbia isn’t ready for this. Having a Gay Parade endangers the public. It is dangerous for racial minorities to go outside during the parade as the hooligans use the Gay parade as a pretext to attack and kill Gypsies and foreigners. Last year four foreigners were attacked on the streets of Belgrade in the week leading up to the parade date, including a French citizen who was killed. Moreover, it is dangerous for the general public to go out at all during the parade. For example 3 public buses were hijacked by the anti-gay protesters. This caused fear, anxiety and disruption to passengers and bus drivers alike.
Then there is the very troubling fact of the matter is that less than 1% of all gays and lesbians in this city and country actually participated or organised the parade. When speaking with gays and lesbians, not one of them knew who were the organisers of the parade. Given the fact that Belgrade’s gay and lesbian community is quite small, it’s revealing that none of them participated in the organisation or marched in the parade itself. Indeed, most of the gays and lesbians questioned were suspicious about the intent and all of them refused to attend. During the weekend most gays and lesbians didn’t venture outside as they feared for their safety. The result was that the Gay Parade actually increased repression against them rather than liberating them This parade was organised by Western NGOs and by foreign governments. For example, the Norwegian embassy was one the biggest financial contributors of the Gay Parade. This parade changed nothing for the day to day reality of gays and lesbians in this country. They continue to be persecuted. They remain forced in the closet. They will continue to suffer ostracisation from society and family. This had more to do with Geo-politics than with fundamental human rights. It is not far fetched to believe this was stage managed to further undermine Serbia’s image abroad. Serbia is tainted as a homophobic country when in reality Serbia isn’t any more or less homophobic than any other Eastern European country. Poland , Bosnia and Russia have the same levels of violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians as Serbia. That is not to mention the deep strains of homophobia which is found in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East not to mention in many parts of the United States.
With that said, homophobia is a problem in Serbia. (No less than 90% of the reporters’ friends and associates are homophobic which trully reveals the depth of anti-homosexual sentiment in this country.) One protester was asked about his attitude and his personal issue with gays and lesbians answered: “They endanger the public morals.”
Serbia held it’s first Gay Parade but at a terrible cost. Gays and lesbians of this country must take their rights into their own hands. They need to organise without the help of foreign governments and NGOs. Gays, Lesbians and their allies from other countries must give their solidarity and help to organise Gay and Lesbian resistance. Having a parade is not going to enhance their human and political rights. New York’s Gay Pride was the result of resistance to police repression. Gays and Lesbians fought for the right to have Gay Pride after militant direct action. Militant struggle comes before parades of Pride. Nonetheless, the rights of gays and lesbians has a long way to go before they are accorded the minimum amount of toleration in Serbia.