The Belgrade Gay Pride Parade starts in less than 24 hours and here’s the lowdown on how things are going so far regarding the Serbian society’s reactions in the media and everyday life.
UPDATE: Evidently I’m still alive. I’m waiting for the pictures to arrive, taken by friends of mine, while I was busy tweeting. Check back later here to see the full report and pictures.
UPDATE: the report from the LGBT protest
The strict security measures required the participants to be inside the Manjez park before 11 am. This was one of the toughest things to do, it turned out, to get up at 9 o clock on a Sunday morning, but I managed to do it somehow. Together with my girlfriend, her mom and some other friends we managed to get to the park after successfully convincing three rows of police officers that we are not hooligans. On the way there we did pass a couple of hooligan groups who shouted “kill the fag” in general police direction, but there were no problems for us to pass them, because these were just small groups of ten, fifteen people and the cops were nearby.
Everyone got a yellow paper bracelet and a pink sticker badge as a sign that we are participants and not hooligans. All in all, my estimate is that there were between 500 and one thousand people who gathered in the park, half of those activists, organizers, foreigners and reporters, and the other half—us, common citizens. Not a lot of support for the LGBT community in Belgrade comes from regular Serbian citizens, it seems.
After listening to the boring speeches of the organizers and some EU officials, it was time to start the protest walk. I notice still that a lot of people think this was some kind of carnival or a parade similar to those in Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, with big open trucks playing techno music and naked men dancing. No, sorry to report that this was just a protest walk, without the music, but with whistles, shouting political paroles, carrying cardboard protest signs etc.
On the way we couldn’t actually see any of the hooligans, let alone riots or fights with the police. The protest convoy was, ironically, the safest place to be at that very point, it turned out. The most exciting thing that happened along the way was seeing a group of nuns and a couple of priests pointing their crosses at the protesters. Also, there was Srdjan Dragojevic’s film crew shooting some scenes for his upcoming movie about the gay parade. The entire walk was half an hour long, which is understandable considering we just walked around one block of buildings.
Final point of the walk and a get-together party was at the Student Cultural Center building. Everything inside was prepared for the party, but I don’t think anyone even thought of dancing, except for one gay guy. Problem was, most of the people were worried about the departure and getting safely home. That problem was solved in a pretty inovative way – the police came with their police wagons and most protesters were driven from the party place in the back of the wagons usually used for transporting criminals. Our transport was meant for four people but somehow ten of us managed to squeeze inside it. We were driven to a safe location outside the city center and from there it was easy to get back home.
Probably by now you all saw the mayhem and the destruction that took place all over the city center that day. Mayor of Belgrade was quick to make a conclusion that “the homophobia will be even bigger after this”, implying that most people will blame the LGBT community for the destruction of the city center, possibly implying that he blames them as well.
But on the other hand, it seems that the police doesn’t think so and that they are determined to get to the bottom of who ordered the hooligans to gather, who organized them and who managed their logistics during the riots. There were many more police officers hurt and injured than hooligans, and it’s understandable that the police is pissed, even though the victory was theirs at the end of the day – the protest walk took place as they said it will and nobody of the participants got hurt.
The hooligan groups threatened days and months prior to the gay pride that they will demolish the city and hurt, even kill the participants unless it’s cancelled. That kind of modus operandi where the systematic use of violence and violent acts which are intended to create fear can be found only in one other type of organization – terrorists. It’s no wonder that at the end of the day, the anti-terrorist units were also deployed in the streets.
Hooligans looting and vandalising Belgrade streets, shouting “Kill the fag”:
The final count comes to around 250 arrested terrorists, and more than 100 police officers injured.
Most of the Serbian people still believe that “gay parade” translates as “anal intercourse in the middle of the street”.
Majority also believes that homosexuality is contagious and that if we allow this to happen, we all will become gay pretty soon. And then we will all die out.
Serbian Orthodox Church disapproves the gay parade, because they generally disapprove “public expressions and advertising of any personal preference”.
Nationalistic groups are pretty well organized. In fact, they are so well organized that it will take 5000 policemen to defend the gay pride participants. They demand the gay pride to be cancelled and threaten to demolish the city if their demands are not met. Basically they behave pretty much like most other terrorist organisations.
On the other hand, the official estimates are there will only be around 1000 participants at the parade. [See the safety instructions if you plan to attend.]
So it doesn’t look particularly good, but it’s better than last year, because this time at least most of the politicians, government institutions and local and foreign state officials are supporting the parade and some of them will be walking along.
It’s strange, but in the end it seems that it all comes down to not so much gay struggle per se, but to show that the terrorist threats don’t scare you. Which brings us to the crucial question—are you coming to support the pride parade, and if not, what’s your excuse?