Pride Parade cancelled due to high risk of violence

BELGRADE -- Authorities have told organizers of the Pride Parade that the safety of its participants cannot be guaranteed and that, therefore, the event cannot be held.

Organizers held an emergency press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković, at which they were told that the risk of excessive attacks on the rally is too great for police to guarantee safety for everyone involved.

Organizers of the Pride Parade stated that this does not mean that the event will be prohibited, rather that it may be relocated, because the risk of excessive attacks is very high, and the police might not be able to protect the participators at the agreed location—the plateau in front of the Philosophy Faculty.

“It is not a prohibition de jure, but a prohibition de facto,” Organizational Committee official Dušan Kosanović said.

Minority organizations have stated that moving the rally to a different location is out of the question.

Kosanović said that the recommendation to move the rally to Ušće, located on the mouth of the Sava River into the Danube, where many large concert events are held, is not acceptable.

He said that according to the law on public gatherings, no rally has been scheduled to be held at that location, and therefore cannot be allowed.

“The symbolism of this event everywhere in the world is to symbolically walk through the center of the city and show that we are equal citizens. We don’t want to walk on some field in Ušće, that would not be a Pride Parade,” organizational committee member Majda Puača said.

The organizers were also offered to move the event to the Palace of Serbia, which was also denied.

Organizational Committee official Dragana Vučković told B92 that the state has officially told them that the event cannot be held because of excessive risks of violence.

At the press conference, the government was also accused of bowing down in the face of violence.

Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said that the state is not prohibiting the event, but rather recommending that it be moved to a location at which it can be properly secured by the police.

The government issued a statement, saying that it approved the Pride Parade despite security risks and reccomended that the organizers relocate the rally in front of the Palace of Serbia.

“The Internal Affairs Ministry stated that this location would be completely secure for participators of the event and other citizens, and that public order, peace and personal property, city property and diplomatic-consular headquarters would all be protected,” the government stated.

“The government has ordered state institutions to take all necessary measures to stop violence, uncover and arrest those who threaten with violence. The government will ensure public order and peace, the security of the citizens and property, and the right of every citizen to enjoy his or her constitutional and legally guaranteed rights,” the statement adds.

Swedish ambassador: Cancellation strange, sad

Swedish ambassador to Serbia Krister Bringeus told B92 that it is strange and sad that the Pride Parade was postponed because of security reasons.

“The Pride Parade is a normal thing in Europe, especially in 2009. Such festivals are held in all European capitals,” she said.

“This summer on the streets of Stockholm, the Pride Parade had 15,000 participants, including the Swedish Prime Minister. For me it was a natural thing for the same thing to happen in Belgrade,” Bringeus said.

“I am sure that the Serbian police were ready to take all measures for protecting the participators of the Pride Parade. I am impressed with the professionalism shown by Minister Ivica Dačić and his people,” the ambassador said.

“The fact that the Parade will not be held is sad and strange,” concluded Bringeus, whose country is presiding over the EU currently.