News 13 Jun 11

Anti-Gay Protesters Charged After Split Parade Violence

Police have filed charges against scores of people after violence marred the first ever gay pride parade in the Croatian coastal city of Split at the weekend., Balkan Insight

Police arrested scores of people accused of causing incidents during the first gay pride parade in Split on Saturday, and have pressed charges against more than 150 protesters.

Eight persons were injured in the violence, which comes one day after the European Commission gave the go-ahead for Croatia's path towards EU membership.

According to police estimates, the gay pride parade brought together 150 participants at the city's main Riva waterfront promenade, while nearby streets were packed with 10,000 people, with 8,000 of them protesting against the event.

The police reported that anti-parade protesters threw stones, shoes, paint, tomatoes and a gas mask at the parade.

Commenting on the injuries caused by the violence, the police said that reporters and police officers sustained injures, as well as one anti-parade protester while he was being apprehended.

After the parade, police drove the participants in police cars to a bus which took them to their homes.

Officials in Zagreb, including Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and President Ivo Josipovic, condemned the violence in Split, and praised police for protecting the parade participants.

Josipovic said that the violence showed that "shown that there are some non-European parts of our society", while insisting that this was not the real face of Croatia. Kosor said that the violence is "something that cannot be tolerated in Croatia".

The organisers of the event, meanwhile, have vowed to press charges themselves against the anti-gay rioters and local authorities, and called on the country's Interior Minister, Tomislav Karamarko, to resign over the violence.

While Zagreb has prided itself on holding the only annual gay pride parade in the Balkans, the events in Split are reminiscent of violent attacks against gay pride events in other cities in the Balkans.

Montenegro recently cancelled plans to hold the country's first ever gay pride parade in Podgorica on May 31, after attacks against the event's organisers in the weeks before it was to take place.

Belgrade's pride parade in October last year, which was the city's first since 2001, was marred by violence. Anti-gay protesters fought running street battles with police during and after the parade, and the marchers were eventually escorted by police vehicles to the city's student cultural centre.

The pride parades are important tests for the countries in the region, which are under pressure to prove that they can protect and respect human and minority rights as they aim for greater integration into the EU.

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