Last Updated on September 18, 2022
Police in Belgrade have made several arrests after clashes surrounding Europe’s largest pride parade erupted in the Serbian capital. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić initially announced that the event would be cancelled, citing fear of violence, after massive protests were organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church and various nationalist groups. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Branabic ultimately gave organizers “guarantees” that the event could proceed, however. Clashes later erupted after a mockery of Jesus Christ was made at the event, which angered Serbian Christians.
The United States and particularly the European Union demanded that the event be held as planned, however. Serbia — which has been trying to join the European Union for over a decade — was told that cancelling the event would violate Europe’s human rights laws and damage their prospects of joining the bloc.
Event organizers on Saturday went ahead with the event after receiving assurances from the nation’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić had previously announced the parade’s cancellation last month.
As the parade went ahead Saturday, those opposed to the march clashed with police. Several police cars were smashed while dozens of protesters were detained.
Brnabic said at a news conference later on Saturday that 64 people had been arrested and 10 police officers were slightly injured, regional N1 media reported.
“Today we arranged 5,200 police officers on the streets of Belgrade; we had two incidents … and in both incidents, police members promptly reacted, solved the problem and ensured that the incidents don’t spread,” Brnabic said.
Al Jazeera reported that “hundreds” of parade-goers reportedly turned up for the event despite inclement weather. The parade route had to be shortened due to the massive protests that numbered in the thousands.
BELGRADE — Tens of thousands march to reaffirm traditional values.
Serbian authorities banned a EuroPride rally at late notice last week. pic.twitter.com/BvAk1ADcad
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) September 17, 2022
“What’s most important is that we are gathering in the streets. This is a fight for human rights. This is the fight for our constitutional rights and this is the fight for a democratic Serbian rule of law,” said Marko Mihajlovic, one of the Pride event organizers.
Serbian MP Bosko Obradovic, who heads the nationalist Dveri party, said on Twitter the parade had an “anti-Christian agenda.”
Ово није само геј парада, ово је класична окупациона и антихришћанска агенда: скрнављење хришћанских симбола, вређање верских осећања, комунистичка петокрака, ЕУ диктатура, подршка НАТО-у у рату против Русије… Геј парада је само претходница за потпуну НАТО окупацију Србије! pic.twitter.com/fBnC37qO0V
— Бошко Обрадовић (@BoskoObradovic) September 17, 2022
More than 20 embassies – including the US, France and the UK – issued a joint statement urging the government to list its official ban. U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher R. Hill, attended the parade, where he marched with a rainbow-colored E.U. flag.
Gay marriage is not legally recognized in Serbia.