Gay rights activists in Serbia have held the nation’s first Pride Parade since the practice was banned back in 2010, walking through the streets of Belgrade, the nation’s capital, which were emptied of traffic and pedestrians by a massive security operation.
Thousands of riot police – on foot, horseback, and in armored vehicles – armed with a combination of water cannons and shields, sealed off the streets that led to the site of the short Pride match from the government headquarters to parliament in order to prevent a repeat of the running battles with hardline nationalists and football hooligans that took place at the last march.
After the fiasco that occurred at the last Pride Parade in 2010, authorities banned future marches for the next three years, citing security concerns. Serbia, as well as many of its Balkan neighbors, suffer from widespread homophobia.
However, with Serbia looking to join the European Union, the bloc has made it clear that it sees Pride Parades as a test of the nation’s commitment to defending the human rights of all. Hundreds took part in the most recent march, waiving rainbow flags and blowing whistles as a police helicopter hovered over them.
“For the first time the institutions have publicly supported the organization of the pride and media reports were more favorable for the LGBT community,” one of the organizers, Boban Stojanovic, told reporters on Saturday.
Read more about the story at BBC News.