Organizers say Pride march will go on in Serbia despite ban

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People march during a protest against the international LGBT event EuroPride in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Thousands of opponents of a pan-European LGBTQ event planned for this week in Belgrade marched through the Serbian capital on Sunday despite an announced ban of Europe’s largest annual gay gathering. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Organizers of European LGBTQ events in Belgrade this week said Friday they will hold a planned Pride march on the streets of the Serbian capital despite a police ban and threats from anti-gay groups.

Serbian police have banned Saturday’s parade, citing a risk of clashes with far-right activists who said they will gather to protest the march. Several legal appeals against the ban have been rejected by Serbia’s authorities.

“’We have been put in a situation where we have no choice,” said Goran Miletic, one of the organizers of the largest annual Pride event in Europe. “’Despite the ban, we will gather. This is a completely different Pride than the usual ones we have had.”

Earlier Friday, organizers submitted another formal request to Serbia’s interior ministry with a proposed shorter route for the walk. This was supported by 27,000 signatures. But Serbia’s interior minister said the ban stands.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs did not give in to the pressures of the great powers of the West,” minister Aleksandar Vulin said.

Members of the European Pride Organizers Association chose Serbia’s capital three years ago to host the annual event, hoping it would represent a major breakthrough for a Slavic country that is traditionally conservative and strongly influenced by the Orthodox Church.

EU and other Western officials, as well as domestic and international rights groups, have urged the populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to allow the holding of the Pride march. But has said police can’t cope with possible riots by right-wing groups amid the energy crisis and other events that have hit the Balkan country.

Those right-wing groups, which are considered close to Vucic’s conservative government, were also banned from gathering on Saturday, but they also said they will ignore the ruling.

“I will not deal with that topic (of Pride week), it is imposed on the Serbian people with evil intensions,” Vucic said Friday. “All those who are in favor, but also those who are extremely against the walk, are all participating in a hybrid war against their country.”

Amnesty International said the ban on the Euro Pride march “for purported security reasons is shameful.”

“Instead of giving in to hateful rhetoric towards and threats against LGBTI people, authorities must take all necessary measures to provide adequate protection for the participants and enable them to enjoy their rights without fear of harassment, intimidation or violence,” said Eve Geddie, Amnesty International’s Director at the European Institutions Office

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