Supporters of Belgrade Pride have held a sit down protest and indoors event on Saturday despite an official ban on the pride march going ahead over fears that right wing extremists would riot in the city.
Associated Press reported that around two dozen flag waving activists held a ‘small, silent, non-violent and motionless [sit-down] protest,’ on the side walk in central Belgrade.
Instead of marching, hundreds of Serbian LGBT rights supporters gathered indoors at a conference center where they pledged to start organizing for a pride march in 2013.
‘The pride parade is not a circus, we are not going to disappear, we will not give up and we will remain visible,’ Belgrade Pride organizing committee member Goran Miletic told AFP.
‘We hope the authorities will have enough time to enable us in a year to walk a 970-step long parade’
The gathering was guarded by dozens of police officers in riot gear but no incidents were reported during the event.
A pride march in Belgrade in 2010 was attacked by rioters who injured more than 150 people and caused over a million dollars in property damage in the city, and the march has been banned every year since.
Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic has said that security forces had gathered intelligence that suggested there would be ‘bloodshed’ if the event went ahead this year.
However human rights group Human Rights Watch said that the Serbian government had a responsibility to protect its citizen’s political rights.
‘The government of Serbia should protect the freedom of assembly and expression of the Serbian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and their straight allies instead of forbidding them to assemble and march on the streets of Belgrade,” said Human Rights Watch LGBT rights advocacy director Boris Dittrich.
‘Pointing to security risks without any visible effort to come up with a reasonable plan to make the Belgrade Pride Parade happen is succumbing to threats of violence. Basic human rights are being thrown overboard.
‘The Serbian government should revoke its decision to ban the Belgrade Pride Parade and allow it to take place, while providing adequate security to all its participants.’