A gay rights parade in the Serbian capital of Belgrade erupted in violence Sunday as thousands of police deployed to protect the marchers clashed with gangs of anti-gay protesters, sparking riots, injuries and arrests.
Protesters chanting “death to homosexuals!” hurled bricks, stones, glass bottles and stun grenades at riot police. Police responded by firing tear gas and deploying armored vehicles to disperse the protesters, who remained in the heart of the capital even after the brief pride march ended, according to the Associated Press.
Anti-gay rioters also fired shots and threw Molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party, setting the building’s garage on fire. The state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also attacked.
The parade, the first of its kind in Belgrade in nearly a decade, had been seen as a test of Serbia’s readiness to become a more modern, open society after years of conflict fuelled by ethnic hatred.
The violence comes two days ahead of a planned visit of by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who wants to highlight Washington’s support for Belgrade’s aspirations to join the European Union.