Protesters march in Belgrade against planned Gay Pride event

BELGRADE, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Thousands of religious and right-wing opponents of a European Gay Pride protest organized by Belgrade demonstrated in the Serbian capital on Sunday, even as the government announced it would scrap or delay the protest .

Belgrade is to host the EuroPride march on September 17, an event held in a different European city each year. But President Aleksandar Vucic said on Saturday it would be canceled or postponed, citing reasons including threats from right-wing activists. Read more

Sunday’s protest against the EuroPride event, staged in a procession to mark a religious holiday, was led by clergy from the Serbian Orthodox Church, some of whose bishops say the Pride event threatens traditional family values ​​and should to be forbidden.

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“Save our children and our family,” said one of the banners held up by the demonstrators, some of whom also carried crosses, on Sunday.

Others who joined Sunday’s march chanted slogans in support of far-right or nationalist causes.

Some waved Russian flags, a show of support for Moscow, Serbia’s traditional ally, as the government in Belgrade tries to balance its ambition to join the European Union with its longstanding ties to Russia and China.

The president said on Saturday that EuroPride would be scrapped or held back later for security reasons. Along with threats from what he called right-wing “hooligans”, he raised issues such as an ongoing dispute with Kosovo and the energy crisis. Read more

“It will happen, but at another happier time,” he said of the EuroPride event.

A UN representative in Serbia criticized Belgrade’s ban on EuroPride. “This would run counter to Serbia’s international human rights commitments,” Francoise Jacob, the UN resident coordinator in Serbia, said in a statement.

Previous Serbian governments have banned pride parades in the past, drawing criticism from human rights groups and others. Some Pride marches in the early 2000s also faced fierce opposition and were marred by violence.

But recent pride marches in Serbia have been peaceful, a change cited by EuroPride organizers as one of the reasons Belgrade was chosen as the 2022 host. Copenhagen was the host in 2021.

Serbia is a candidate for EU membership. But to become a member, it must first respond to demands to improve the rule of law and its record on human and minority rights, and must eradicate organized crime and corruption and redress the ties with Kosovo.

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Reporting by Fedja Grulovic; Written by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Edmund Blair

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