Serbian Police Intervene to Protect Gay Pride Parade

by Dusan Stojanovic

Associated Press

Monday September 16, 2019

Police in Serbia briefly clashed with far-right supporters who tried to prevent a gay pride parade attended by the country's openly gay prime minister on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and her partner joined several hundred activists in the annual march through downtown Belgrade. The center of the capital was sealed off by police during the event.

Hours before the march, around 150 far-right supporters gathered in protest. Some held Orthodox Christian banners and crosses and sang religious songs, and some were dressed as Orthodox monks.

At least five protesters were taken away by police after they refused to move from the route of the march that ended without any major incident.

Brnabic is the first openly gay prime minister in the traditionally conservative Balkan state.

"Today we are sending a message of tolerance which has to be preserved in Serbia," Brnabic said. "I think we are heading in the right direction."

Brnabic, however, is not very popular among many in the gay community in the capital because they say she has done little to promote their rights since she came to power in 2017.

A banner reading "Prime minister, how is it living with all those privileges?" greeted her as she joined the march.

The first pride parade in Belgrade was organized in 2001 and participants were attacked by hooligans and ultranationalist groups. Since 2014, the marches have occurred without major incidents.

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