BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said Monday that his government is considering banning a gay rights parade along with all other types of public events in Belgrade this next weekend, fearing a repeat of the violence that erupted two years ago.
The October 2010 parade in the Serbian capital ended in violence as thousands of police deployed to protect the marchers clashed with gangs of anti-gay protesters, sparking riots, injuries and arrests.
Dacic was the leading proponent for the Serbian government’s ban on last year’s gay rights parade.
“The ban was issued in line with the law on public gatherings which prescribes such a measure in cases of probable disruption of public transport, threats to public health or safety of people and property.” said Dacic, in his 2011 statement, adding that the planned Belgrade Pride event posed major security risks for ordinary residents, property, as well as the police.
“Police will not allow gatherings because if it does, there will be conflicts, casualties, blood and chaos,” he said.
Dacic claimed that as many as 5,000 security personnel including anti-riot units, plainclothes agents and mounted police would be needed to ensure security around the parade.
This year, Dacic told reporters, “So far we have received only partial security assessments and we may ban the parade if it proves a high-risk gathering.”
Right-wing activists want to hold a counter-rally in the Serbian capital the same day as the gay rights parade and have also threatened to disrupt an exhibition by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, which they claim mocks Jesus Christ because it shows him in female clothes and high heels.
The exhibition, one of several events associated with the gay pride parade, is due to open on October 3.
Vladan Glisic of the small ultra-nationalist movement Dveri, told Reuters that it is likely to infuriate many people who think along the same lines as him.
“The exhibition insults the feelings of believers and all religious people … and we want a reaction from the Serbian Orthodox Church and the government,” Glisic said.
Goran Miletic, a human rights activist and one of the parade’s organizers, said a ban would be a defeat in the face of intolerance.
“There are threats of violence and the police must respond to that,” Miletic said.
Serbia’s Socialist-nationalist government is under pressure to demonstrate its willingness to protect human rights in order to join the European Union. Conservative societies across the Balkans, which are often heavily influenced by the Orthodox Christian religion have been slow to accept gay rights.