Belgrade Pride Banned Again4. October 2012 - 11:13 — Dejan Georgievski
Serbian Ministry of Interior (MOI) decided yesterday, October 3, 2012, to ban the Pride walk and all other public gatherings in Belgrade, announced for Saturday, October 6. The President of Serbian Government and Minister of Interior Ivica Dačić told the media that the decision was based on security assessments that showed a high risk of serious disturpbances of public order and security of the citizens.
In addition to the Pride walk – part of the Pride Week – the authorities banned all other gatherings organized in opposition of the Pride, and all football games that were scheduled to be played on October 6.
"It is important for the credibility of Serbia to demonstrate the power of the state. This doesn’t mean, in any way of fashion, a retreat or capitulation to those who think that their paramilitary and other threats could endanger the holding of public events and gatherings. At this moment, we estimated that it could lead to serious threats to public order and security of the citizens”, PM Dačić said.
Boban Stojanović, member of the organizing board of the „2012 Pride week“, while reminding the public that the Pride was also banned last zear, said that the real problem was not the fact that the members of LGBT community won’t be able to walk on October 6, but “how to fight against concentrated violence over the coming period of time”.
He added that the gathering will „be marked in some way“ in spite of MOI's ban, but that no decision was made so far what form it may take.
Serbian Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrušić said that the decision to ban the Pride is proof that the state wasn’t prepared to protect the constitutional right to peaceful gathering and freedom of expression.
"The ban also demonstrates the high levels of homophobia in Serbia and how little was done in the past to promote the rule of law and culture of peace and tolerance in the country”, Petrušić said.
Čedomir Jovanović, President of the Liberal-Democratic Party said that the decision to ban the Pride means that the state told the citizens, in no uncertain terms, that they don’t have the right to live as free citizens and that it can’t guarantee full respect and implementation of the law.
"The essence of the ban that it is a capitulation to those who hate violently, it is a concession to the political parties that calculate with their public approval ratings, just as past governments did”, Jovanović said, adding that, for as long as there is the Anti-Discrimination Law, the state is obligated to protect all people from discrimination, which couldn’t be done with “impotent assessments and bans”.
Members of the diplomatic corps and international organisations also condemned the decision to ban the Pride. Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, expressed his surprise and disappointment, and the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade expressed similar positions. European Parliament’s Rapporteur on Serbia Jelko Kacin said that it was a politically motivated decision, with EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström wrote on Twitter that she was saddened by the news of the ban and that “the police has to guarantee the freedom of gathering”.
The ban followed several days of speculation – some portals and media already reported about the ban before the official decision was adopted – whether the Pride will be banned or not. PM Dačić repeated on several occasions during the past week that the Pride will be banned if assessments proved it would bring about high security risks.
The Pride was supported by a number of Serbian and international public personalities, activists and politicians. On the other hand, the Pride is constantly opposed and attacked by groups and organisations of the extreme right and religious communities in Serbia. The Patriarch of the Serb Orthodox Church Irinej himself demanded from the authorities to ban the Pride which, in his view, was „a tragicomic parade of shame that throws a heavy moral shadow over the city of Belgrade“. The Islamic communities in Serbia also joined the demands for a ban of the Pride.
Serbian authorities also banned last year's Pride, after the experience of the Pride 2010, when Belgrade turned into a scene of several hours long clashes of riot police with hooligans and right-wing extremists who attacked the Pride. Several dozens of people were injured during the clashes and the city suffered huge material damage. (Source: coverage of B92.net)