*Serbian activists sit on the pavement outside the hall holding signs with the date set for next year’s parade (AFP, Andrej Isakovic)
Gay rights activists in Belgrade, Serbia on Saturday staged a brief protest and held an indoor gathering attended by hundreds of gay rights supporters after a pride march was banned by police over far-right threats of violence.
Activists had announced plans to hold an event in early September 2013, saying they hoped it would give authorities enough time to allow the march. But Serbian police refused and banned the parade drawing criticism from around the world stating that they feared a repeat of the violence from 2010 when more than 100 people were injured in daylong clashes with fascist extremists.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic has said that security forces had gathered intelligence that suggested there would again be ‘bloodshed’ if the event went ahead this year.
However human rights group Human Rights Watch said that the Serbian government had a responsibility to protect its citizen’s political rights.
‘The government of Serbia should protect the freedom of assembly and expression of the Serbian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their straight allies instead of forbidding them to assemble and march.”
“The pride parade is not a circus, we are not going to disappear, we will not give up and we will remain visible,’ Belgrade Pride organizing committee member Goran Miletic told AFP.
Activists at the indoor event on Saturday said they will put pressure on authorities to pass a declaration in the parliament against homophobia and amend the criminal law to include hate crimes.
After the event and amid heavy police presence, about two dozen flag-waving activists briefly appeared outside an office building in central Belgrade and sat down on the sidewalk for what they described as a “small, silent, nonviolent and motionless protest.”