Riot police stand in front of activists at Belgrade Pride. (AFP via Getty/ OLIVER BUNIC)
Belgrade Pride was marred by violence on Saturday (17 September), as far-right protesters hurled stun grenades, stones and flares.
The pan-European Pride event EuroPride 2022 was hosted by Belgrade, and involved a week of events before the march on Saturday.
According to AP NewsSerbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabic said that 5,200 police officers were dispatched to the event in an attempt to protect pride-goers from far-right attacks.
Nevertheless, ultraconservative protesters threw stun grenades, flares and rocks at the march and the police cordon, with police in riot gear and defending the Pride event with batons. The violence resulted in 64 arrests and 10 injured police officers.
When the march, which was initially banned before being reinstated with a shorter route, passed a church, bells incessantly rang out to show the Orthodox Church’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights.
Journalist and researcher Michael Colborne, who monitors far-right activity, reported that the far-right protesters also assaulted journalists covering the event, and chanted: “Kill all f****ts.”
I wrote Thursday that we ignore Serbia’s and the broader Balkans’ far right at our peril. Watching clips of football hooligans trying to march towards @belgradepride @EuroPride shouting “kill the fa**ots”, assaulting journalists and throwing stun grenades at police (below) is why pic.twitter.com/wHveq1PzVc
— Michael Colborne (@ColborneMichael) September 17, 2022
Other tweets and video clips from the march show hooligans shouting Nazi slogans while pride-goers attempted to drown them out.
Still feeling off kilter from yesterday’s Belgrade Pride. Difficult to put into words.
These idiots standing in front of a church shouting nazi slogans… in 2022??
Absolute solidarity with all Balkan queer people. pic.twitter.com/DJQdggVPX1
— Rob Holley (@robholley) September 18, 2022
Although the country is seeking to join the European Union, in recent years Serbia’s far-right has become even more hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community, and has shown increasing sympathy with Russia.
The country’s president Aleksandar Vučić initially said that Belgrade Pride would be “postponed or canceled” amid rising tension with neighboring Kosovo, but EuroPride refused to back down, saying the president “cannot cancel someone else’s event”.
Ahead of the first day of EuroPride 2022 (Monday 12 September), thousands of religious and right-wing homophobes staged march through the streets of Belgrade in protest of EuroPride, led by the Serbian Orthodox Church, saying the event threatened traditional family values.
But despite the best efforts of the far-right, Pride attendees reported that participants remained safe, and marched to demand that Serbia legalize same-sex unions, improve trans rights, condemn and tackle hate speech and hate-motivated crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, implement inclusive education, make PrEP free and accessible, and formally apologise for the historic persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the country.
Christopher Street Day Berlin organizers wrote on Twitter: “It was the most intense and impressive and important Pride we’ve ever marched in. Lots of police. Big security and safety restrictions. We have to support East European LGBTQ+ people more. Together we are stronger. United in love.”
Hundreds of people participated in the #EuroPride march in #Serbia‘s capital #belgrade on Saturday in spite of threats from anti-gay groups.#europride2022 #belgradepride@EuroPride @belgradepride pic.twitter.com/NJIV3BehiL
— Isa Myzyraj (@IsamyzyrajAlb) September 17, 2022
Marching against all odds… In solidarity stronger together!
For our European core values! We are queer, we are here, we will never disappear!#europride #belgradepride #Europe #Serbia @RainbowRose_PES pic.twitter.com/QdbxTRBQjs
— ️🙏 (@HanoverCARLing) September 17, 2022
BelgradePride | Europride 2022. it was the most intense and impressive and important pride we’ve ever marched in. Lots of police. Big security and safety restrictions. We have to support East European #lgbtiq people more. Together we are stronger. United in love. #belgradepride pic.twitter.com/1grxLFmOTV
— CSD Berlin (@CSD_Berlin) September 17, 2022
Rekli smo da emo etati. etali smo. Opet emo etati.
— Goran Miletic (@goranmiletic) September 18, 2022
Following the event, Belgrade Pride organizer Goran Miletic shared on Twitter: “We said we would walk. We walked. We will walk again.”