BELGRADE (Reuters) – Police clashed with right-wing protesters on Saturday as several thousand people joined an LGBTQ march in Serbia to mark the end of EuroPride week, an event staged in a different European city each year.
Police clashed with two right-wing groups trying to disrupt the march, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said, adding that 10 police officers were slightly injured, five police cars damaged and 64 protesters arrested.
“I am very proud that we managed to avoid more serious incidents,” Brnabic, who herself is Serbia’s first gay prime minister, told reporters.
Following protests by nationalists and religious groups, the government had banned the march last week. But faced with calls by European Union officials and human rights activists, it allowed a shortened route for the march.
Those participating walked several hundred metres to the Tsmajdan stadium where a concert took place.
The United States’ ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, and the European parliament’s special rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, joined the march.
Previous Serbian governments have banned Pride parades, drawing criticism from human rights groups and others. Some Pride marches in the early 2000s met with fierce opposition and were marred by violence.
But recent Pride marches in Serbia have passed off peacefully, a change cited by EuroPride organisers as one reason Belgrade was chosen as this year’s host. Copenhagen was the host in 2021.
Serbia is a candidate to join the EU, but it must first meet demands to improve the rule of law and its record on human and minority rights.
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Christina Fincher)