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7th Sofia Pride march blocked by Bulgarian nationalist protesters

7th Sofia Pride march blocked by Bulgarian nationalist protesters

LGBTI rights protesters took to the streets of the Bulgarian capital Sophia for a seventh time on Saturday, calling on lawmakers and churches to respect their rights.

Reports say around a hundred people marched, protected by hundreds more police officers.

The march had originally been scheduled for 21 June, during international Pride Month, but organizers postponed the event out of respect for people who had died during deadly floods that week along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.

Marchers had hoped to march past the city’s Vasil Levski monument in the city center but were prevented from doing so by a group of counter-protesters from the nationalist Ataka party.

The monument is the oldest in the city commemorating the independence of the Principality of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire and celebrates the life of Bulgarian national hero and revolutionary figure Vasil Levski who was hanged at the same spot on 18 February 1873.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church condemned the march in the lead up to the event, calling it a ‘march of proud sin.’

‘They are a danger to the good upbringing of our children, destroy the foundations of the traditional family and threaten the good health of our society,’ the church said in a statement in June.

On 3 July, a large group of foreign ambassadors issued a statement in support of the march which was published on the website of the British embassy in Sofia.

‘We would like to convey our support to all people who either actively participate in or back this year’s Sofia Pride on 5 July 2014,’ the statement reads.

‘Promoting the principle of equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people is an important aspect of a tolerant and respectful civil society. No one should ever be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. By signing this statement, we would like to stress that any democratic society should stand up for open-mindedness towards LGBTI people.’

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the United States, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and South Africa.