At the end of a Pride parade the attendees generally look forward to to relaxing with an event laid on by the organisers and maybe enjoying a cocktail*. Today was the first time since 2001 that the Serbian capital was attempting to hold a Pride parade.
As someone who grew up in Northern Ireland I am quite used to seeing Molotov cocktails (aka petrol bombs) being used against security or police forces. However, when they used against individuals trying to carry out a peaceful demostration you know that something is not right. Today in Belgrade that is what happened.
Over 100 people, mostly police, were injured when homophobic protestors unleashed a barrage of petrol bombs on the parade. Another 100 were arrested as a result of the incident which marred the day for the 1,000 people who were marching in support of gay rights in Serbia.
Armed police had to surround the rally at the start of the march at which the head of the EU mission in Serbia, Vincent Degert, addressed those gathered. He said:
"We are here to celebrate the values of tolerance, freedom of expression and assembly."
Meanwhile across the city the counter demostrators were gathering chanting:
"The hunt has begun. Death to homosexuals."
This is one hunting season that I do not want to see repeated. It was a hunt, capture and extermination that was carried out by Nazi Germany. It is a sexuality-cleansing that cannot be allowed to gain momentum in the nation that brought ethnic cleansing to the Balkan states in the early 1990s.
People ask why it is still necessary for people in the UK to still hold Pride events. One of the major reasons is to show solidarity for the rest of the LGBTQ** family world wide who are not so lucky to enjoy the many freedoms that we have, either to assmble freely, or even to act upon their sexual desires.
Places like Serbia need the rest of the world to speak up for those who tried to march for gay rights in Belgrade today, and condemn those that think that an open hunting season is open with the LGBT community the prey.
Update: I have since received via Facebook a first hand account of what actually happened by way of correcting factual errors in this blog post:
Molotov Cocktails simply were not thrown at PRIDE partcpants as suggested in your blog because the highly professional Police correctly anticipated we would be sitting targets and very very intelligently cordoned the gathering area and the parade route. Mind you the drive in pitch black, anti-riot vehicles was a bit bumpy in certain places.
* For non-Pride regulars non-stereotypical beer, cider etc are also readily available, cocktails is merely used to the dramatic effect of this story.
** Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning