- Title: SERBIA: Police evacuate gay pride marchers after protesters burn party HQ
- Date: 11th October 2010
- Summary: MORE OF MARCHERS GETTING INTO POLICE VAN MARCHERS AND POLICE STANDING BESIDE VAN MARCHERS GATHERING AROUND POLICE VANS VARIOUS OF MARCHERS GETTING INTO VANS RIOT POLICEMEN WATCHING MARCHERS GETTING INTO VAN POLICEMAN USHERING MARCHERS INTO VAN MARCHERS GETTING INTO VAN POLICE WATCHING VANS DEPARTING
- Embargoed: 26th October 2010 13:00
- Location: Serbia
- Country: Serbia
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVABTGUMFZ2ZFDVCCNN8AOSUN2FU
- Story Text: Gay Pride marchers in the Serbian capital were evacuated by police on Sunday (October 10) after anti-gay protesters set fire to the political headquarters of President Boris Tadic.
Police escorted the parade from its starting point at Majez Park in central Belgrade, following repeated clashes between officers and anti-gay protesters earlier in the day.
A similar parade last year was cancelled after protesters threatened to attack the march.
In the last Belgrade parade in 2001, dozens of gay activists and policemen were injured in clashes with nationalists, neo-Nazis and hooligans.
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.
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.
"I think that in every society there is step by step approach that we have to go through, and I think that major steps were made in Serbia in that direction,' said EU Ambassador to Serbia, Vincert Degert.
"Steps were made on legislative front and now this legislative front has to be translated in every day life of the citizens and to be visible for every citizen at this regard. And there we still have some work to do, and some movement to make in that context. But I am confident that the authorities have been taking a very clear orientation. President Tadic was very clear on this issue, and I believe that we are moving into the right direction," he added.
President Boris Tadic has repeatedly emphasised his support for this year's parade, and was a key advocate of a 2009 anti-discrimination law as part of his country's bid to join the European Union -- despite strong opposition from the conservative Serbian Orthodox church and other religious communities.
But anti-gay protests turned increasingly violent on Sunday, as hooligans pelted police with stones. More than 70 officers were hospitalised in the violence, officials said.
Rioters also targetted Serbia's state television headquarters and attempted to break into the federal parliament building.
In the chaos, one group of protesters managed to set fire to the headquarters of Tadic's Democratic Party, according to police.
Emergency services rushed to the scene and the blaze was quickly brought under control.
But as security concerns took a turn for the worse, police began to evacuate gay pride marchers from outside the capital's student cultural centre.
Police estimated the number of participants in the gay rights parade at 1,500. They marched in central Belgrade, where traffic was barred and non-area residents kept out. Several churches cancelled Sunday services.
The violence comes two days ahead of a planned visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who wants to highlight Washington's support for Belgrade's aspirations to join the European Union.
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