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News 29 Sep 11

Serb Rightists Threaten Gays with 'Day of Flames'

As far-right groups muster counter-rallies timed to coincide with Gay Pride, some police unions are threatening to boycott providing security for the controversial march planned for October 2.

Gordana Andric
Belgrade

Several Serbian far-right organisations have announced rival rallies on the day of the gay parade on October 2, raising fears of street disturbances on the same scale as last year's parade - or worse.

One group, "Obraz" ["Cheek"], whose leader Mladen Obradovic was sentenced to two years in prison for organising riots at the 2010 Belgrade Pride Parade, is planning a "prayer walk", starting with a service at the Serb Orthodox Church cathedral of St Sava. From there the group supposed to walk to the old Saborna church, in the heart of the old city.

Obradovic, who has been released from custody until his final verdict, claims that several Serbian Orthodox priests are supporting Obraz but he insists that the "prayer walk" is not going to be violent. “This is a peaceful gathering, a gathering of Orthodox believers, so the possibility of incidents is excluded,” Obradovic told Balkan Insight.

Another far-right organisation, Nasi Srbija [Serbia is Ours], formerly called Nasi 1389, after the date of a famous battle, has decided to join the "prayer walk". Nasi Srbija will also organise gatherings at four locations around Belgrade.

According to one leader of this group, Misa Vacic, his organisation will organise interactive workshops promoting traditional values on Terazije and in front of the buildings of the Serbian parliament, government and the President's office.

Vacic says Serbian patriots must be allowed to express their views and that if the police allow them their constitutional rights of free assembly, there will be no violence. “We are appalled when our city suffers an injustice. Serbia must show it has tolerance also for those who are against gay pride,” Vacic said.

Another far-right group, Dveri Srpske (Serbian Doors) has already called on people who believe in family values to gather in Belgrade on October 1, a day ahead of the Gay Pride Parade. On the day of their parade, this organisation will launch a petition for a dismissal of Serbian President, Boris Tadic, in dozen Serbian towns but not the capital.

“We won’t be collecting signatures in Belgrade, as we want to avoid any risk of violence,” Dveri Srpske spokesman told Balkan Insight.

More worrying than these trailed "family value" rallies are reports that other unnamed groups are planning serious violence.

The leader of Serbia's Independent Police Union, Momcilo Vidojevic, said police had obtained information that some rightists are preparing an operation under the alarming codename "Belgrade in flames" for October 2.

“According to our intelligence, hooligans are planning to hold destructive protests in all Belgrade municipalities and in some other Serbian towns,” Vidojevic said on Tuesday.

It is still not clear how many police officers will be securing the parade. Vidojevic said he will decide whether to call on members of his union to boycott the parade by Saturday.

He said the police was not adequately equipped for such potentially violent events.

Other police unions say they will do their duty. “Every police officer decided to perform his tasks when he joined the police, so we will all go out and do our duty. But it’s ungracious of the authorities to assign tasks for which we are not equipped,” Velimir Barbulov, leader of another union, the Independent Union of Police, said.

The biggest police union, the Police Union of Serbia, previously called gay pride organisers to postpone the parade, but the Union president, Veljko Mijailovic, says his members will also obey their orders.

Mijailovic said an event carrying such a big risk of violence, such as gay pride, demands large number of officers, which is difficult when at the same time police are being tasked with securing the area around the Kosovo border.

Regardless of all the various threats, Gay Pride organisers are not considering cancellation. “That was never an option,” Goran Miletic, one of the organisers, told Balkan Insight.

“The problem with violence is constant here. Cancellation of the parade will not solve it,” Miletic added.  

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