- Title: SERBIA: Police clash with protesters at gay pride parade
- Date: 11th October 2010
- Summary: PARADE PARTICIPANTS STANDING IN PARK
- Embargoed: 26th October 2010 13:00
- Location: Serbia
- Country: Serbia
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVA40JBIT6TL97MDFUDC2AQ4JVO6
- Story Text: Serbian police clashed with anti-gay protesters and shut down much of central Belgrade on Sunday (October 10) before a gay rights rally in the conservative Balkan state.
A similar parade in 2009 was cancelled after protesters threatened to attack the march.
But this year authorities mobilised mounted police and officers in riot gear -- in a tight security operation in the streets surrounding the parade at Majez Park.
"This parade is one of the ways to increase confidence of citizens in state institutions, so that state institutions have a better relationship with citizens and violence can be stopped much earlier so such security will not be needed," said Boban Stojanovic, one of the organisers of the parade.
Surveys show that about 60 percent of Serbians disapprove of homosexuality, and one third of those say violence should be used to interrupt gay public events.
In the last Belgrade march in 2001, dozens of gay activists and policemen were injured in clashes with nationalists, neo-Nazis and hooligans.
"I just hope in time that this country will come further forward in its human rights, not just for a white heterosexual man but for everyone -- man, woman and children," said Dennis Hambridge, a British activist from Oxford.
But as organisers set up stalls before the parade, anti-gay protesters clashed with riot police in nearby streets.
An angry mob chanted slogans and threw objects at the police line.
And in the surrounding streets, masked youths tore up bricks and blocks of cement to attack officers.
At least a dozen anti-gay protesters were detained in the clashes, police said.
Many see Sunday's march as a test of Serbia's readiness to become a more modern, open society after the intolerance that fuelled the 1990s Balkan wars and made Serbia a pariah state.
Despite strong opposition from the conservative Serbian Orthodox church and other religious communities, Serbia, which wants to join the European Union, adopted an anti-discrimination law last year to meet conditions for visa-free travel to the EU.
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