158 injured, 249 arrested in Belgrade riots

BELGRADE -- Some 6,000 anti-gay protesters clashed with police in Belgrade on Sunday, police said.

(Beta)
(Beta)

The Belgrade Pride gay parade was held after two failed attempts in previous years.

But riots broke out in the Serbian capital as hooligans and members of right-wing organizations clashed with police attempting to reach those who took part in the parade.

A total of 158 people were injured, a large majority of them policemen, say the latest reports.

Three people - two civilians and one police officer were hospitalized, announced the authorities.

Police arrested a total of 249 people, of whom some 100 were detained for disorderly conduct and destroying property. Among those taken in for questioning is right-wing movement Obraz leader Mladen Obradović.

The arrests continued throughout the night, said reports.

Police also reported that 11 police vehicles and three fire trucks were damaged at different points in the city.

Interior Minister Ivica Dačić, who visited the injured police officers in the hospital declared that "police successfully accomplished their mission and prevented bloodshed." He added that the pride event was guarded by some 5,600 police officers, while those who gathered to attack them, according to the minister, numbered 6,000 people.

"Policemen who took part are saying that they perhaps have not faced this amount of hatred and conflict for as long as they've been doing their job. Police managed to prevent bloodshed in Belgrade," he added.

State Secretary with the Justice Ministry Slobodan Homen told B92 in Belgrade on Monday that the minstry was working with the state prosecution to impose a ban on right wing organizations.

"We must admit and clearly stress that this was not an organization of individual participants who came to protest but a fairly well organized group of people, which has its roots in right wing organizations and extreme groups of supporters," said Homen.

Meanwhile, first estimates show that the damage done in Belgrade yesterday amounts to some EUR 1mn.

On Sunday, the hooligans began assembling at a number of locations in the capital early on Sunday from where they proceeded to clash with police.

The demonstrators hurled stones and miscellaneous objects at police, overturned garbage bins, set fire to several cars, set fire to the Democratic Party's headquarters, junked the RTS state broadcaster headquarters and demolished the Socialist Party of Serbia's and Liberal Democratic Party's offices in the city and also attacked the Belgrade mosque and several embassies, in addition to looting several stores.

The violence lasted for hours while police used tear gas and armored vehicles to disperse the rioters. Downtown Belgrade was closed for traffic until the afternoon, Beta news agency reported.