The first attempt to organize the Pride Parade in 2001 ended in violence against the participants. With the silent presence of police forces, hooligans were hunting down and mercilessly beating homosexuals on Terazije Square. During the following seven years, LGBT population was too scared to attempt another Pride Parade.
When, in 2009, they gathered the strength to try again, the state, represented by Minister of Police Ivica Dacic, Mayor of Belgrade Dragan Djilas and other politicians, called on the organizers to give up the Parade, since the state was not able to protect them. Some of them, like the Mayor, publicly stated that they were against such a manifestation of sexual orientation.
The state, which in this way publicly revealed that it was not only unable, but that it also had no desire to protect its citizens, decided not only to allow the parade this year, but also to participate in its organization. It all ended in a war on the streets of Belgrade, in which over 100 people, most of them police officers, were injured. Some suffered minor injuries, some ended in hospital. The hooligans surrounded the headquarters of DS (Democratic Party) and finally set the building on fire. They harassed Zene u crnom (Women in Black), threw stones at the mobile mammograph donated by B92 which was located in the center of the city, threw citizens out of buses, demolished and robed sportswear stores in Knez Mihailova… Police used everything at its disposal: infantry, special forces, mounted police, choppers. Finally, they decided to use their strongest card – antiterrorist units and their famous hummers. After the walk called Let’s walk together and the party in SKC, participants of the Pride Parade were transported by police cars to precincts around the city, from which they would leave when they dared to. Young hooded men with scarves over their faces still patrol the city in hope of finding a “queer”, a foreigner, a human rights activist… One MP cannot leave his apartment for the airport, because a group of white, Orthodox, heterosexual Serbs are waiting for him in front of his apartment building. The doctor who was on call today in the mobile mammograph, distraughtly describes how the mammograph was stoned; DS spokeswoman, Jelena Trivan, calls for the rule of law from the wrecked and burned DS headquarters in Krunska street…
The majority of people from the NGO sector and the civil society, who have 20 years of experience with this type of violence, were not prepared for such a battle in the main streets of our capital city. They believed that the state, once it finally decided to allow the Parade, had at least the capability to maintain order and protect the participants of the parade, especially since EU representatives, US ambassador and the Minister for Human and Minority Rights Ciplic were amongst those present at the Parade.
How is it possible that all of this happened? First to answer will have to be the highly praised Minister of Internal Affairs Ivica Dacic, followed by the Government and the self-confident President, who recently bragged about victories in the fight against crime and spoke about Serbia as a country of freedom and democracy.
During the next few days, the public will speak about football hooligans (primarily those belonging to the football club Rad), who rampaged through the streets of Belgrade. We will hear about the responsibility of neo-Nazi organizations such as 1389 andObraz, the Constitutional Court will be criticized for not yet passing a decision on banning these organizations… the public will talk about everything, but the least about the responsibility of SPC (Serbian Orthodox Church) and its proponents, such as Srpski sabor Dveri (Serbian Assembly Dveri), for such a turn of events.
Two or three days before the Parade, it appeared that it would turn out to be a strictly controlled event, and LGBT organizations were criticized for allowing the state to take control over everything. And then Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic spoke, and, in the most direct way, called for violence against “bullies and clowns who lost moral and spiritual balance”, he threatened with the faith of Sodom and Gomorrah, promised the participants of the Parade flames and sulfur. The very next day, between two and three thousand people joined the protest called Family walk, organized by Srpski sabor Dveri. This organization has, for years, been directly financed and controlled by SPC. Members of this organization regularly lead groups of thugs (sometimes dressed in the colors of football clubs Rad, Zvezda and Partizan, sometimes carrying church flags over their shoulders, but always wearing hoods and masks, and carrying rocks and Molotov cocktails). It is indicative that theFamily walk ended with the singing of the song Oj Kosovo, zemljo moja mila (Oh Kosovo, my beloved country).
After the shameful appearance of Metropolitan Amfilohije, spokesman for the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Irinej Bulovic, addressed the nation in a seemingly conciliatory tone. However, he basically repeated the same thing Amfilohije said, adding something hooligans do not take seriously – that we should not resort to violence. This statement is unconvincing, more so because it was signed by Irinej backi, who distinguished himself last year by issuing a fatwa and satanizing the LGBT population.
TheFamily walk organized by SPC proponents was the announcement, the first act of today’s war. LGBT population may be satisfied because the meeting in the Manjez Park was successful, but, for the Serbian state, this is just another shameful event it will try to hide, regardless of the fact it turned out that not even the headquarters of the President’s ruling party is a safe place to live.
The President, the Government, parties and ministries issued statements. However, the most responsible minister, Ivica Dacic, remained silent. Everyone kept repeating how no one was stronger than the state, how the state would not allow violence on our streets. The army of 5000 police officers already allowed violence. We already witnessed the fact that two-three thousand well organized hooligans were able to defeat the state. Spokesman for the Prosecution Tomo Zoric boasted how the police had footage from the streets of Belgrade. It will be interesting to see whether those cameras also recorded priests in cassocks. He also announced that the perpetrators of violence will be interrogated by the police. If this is true, Metropolitan Amfilohije must also be called down to the police station to answer some questions. Maybe Saint Peter is waiting for him to interrogate him one last time, but, in the meantime, Amfilohije, the same as all of us mortals, should be subjected to an earthly police interrogation.
The first statements coming from the Mayor of Belgrade Dragan Djilas indicate the possible reaction of the majority public, which will blame the LGBT population, in a direct or indirect way, for provocations and causing additional animosity towards them. The Mayor of Belgrade, accusing the victim for inciting violence, repeated the words of Metropolitan Amfilohije, thus closing the circle of madness, which, once again, turned Belgrade this week into a very scary place.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic