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Friday, September 30, 2011

Serbia Bans Gay Pride Parade


September 30, 2011
Hispanic Business

Serbia on Friday banned a gay pride parade planned to take place in central Belgrade on Sunday, saying that security in the capital had been jeopardized, state television station RTS reported.

The decision was made by the national security agency in an emergency meeting, amid concerns that extremist groups could spread violence across broad swaths of the capital.

TV B92 quoted security sources as saying that extremist groups had planned to attack foreign businesses and diplomatic offices.

It would have been the second such parade to take place in Belgrade. In 2010 the parade was marred by violence, while in 2009 it was scrapped amid an oppressive atmosphere similar to the present.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) had earlier on Friday called on authorities to ban the parade, branding it a "shame parade" and linking it to violence in Kosovo.

"Our city and our public have been shaken by the question over ... the so-called 'pride parade'," SPC Patriarch Irinej said. "With full justification I call this plague a 'shame parade' that smears human dignity and tramples the shrines of life and family."

"The planned parade in Belgrade, it is our impression, aims to overshadow and hide the plight of the Serbian people in Kosovo," Irinej continued in a statement published on the SPC website.

The organizers of the parade had come under pressure after threats of violence from extremist groups as well as a lack of support from authorities.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic on Friday said earlier Friday that police would ban the parade if the organizers themselves did not abandon it.

He and Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas had urged the organizers to cancel the parade because of the likely violence.

Before the ban was announced on Friday one of the parade's organizers, Goran Miletic, said the calls from officials to cancel the event shocked him because they were giving equal credibility to the attackers and their target.

A year ago, thousands of extremists clashed for hours with police securing the gays and their supporters. This year, extremist organizations had scheduled anti-gay rallies throughout the weekend, raising tensions and the prospect of violence.

According to local newspapers, police had planned to deploy more than 5,000 uniformed and plainclothes officers and riot police on Sunday.

"Whom will police shield and protect?" the SPC patriarch asked. "A minority group ... that wants to impose its fundamentally unnatural view upon the massive majority."

At the same time he urged those planning to "oppose the parade" to do so without violence. "You cannot defeat evil with evil, but with good," he said.

Politicians from President Boris Tadic's pro-European camp have been reluctant to support gay rights -- not a vote winner in traditionalist Serbia -- particularly since the European Union told Belgrade to stop meddling in Kosovo and Serbs clashed with NATO this week in their enclave in the former province.

Politicians have toned down their pro-European rhetoric as their hope for the recognition of Serbia as a EU membership candidate and the date for the start of accession talks continued to fade.

At the same, time, nationalist and conservative rhetoric, including anti-gay rhetoric has been on the rise.

The government itself "never considered this question, nor the question of those who want to protest," Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said Thursday, referring to the parade and the protests against it.
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