Despite the official ban, protesters were able to march in the rain a few hundred meters from the Constitutional Court to a nearby park, a much shorter route than originally planned by organizers.
Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin insisted the ban was being enforced and people were simply being “escorted to a concert”.
The Balkan country’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic – who is openly gay – said 64 people were arrested and ten police officers injured on Saturday, but stressed she was “proud” the day ended without a “major incident “.
Anti-LGBT protesters are blocked by police in front of St. Mark’s Church during the EuroPride march in Belgrade, Serbia, September 17, 2022. Source: AAP / APE
“The future of the country”
“It’s much more than a gay pride,” Luka Mazzanti Jovicevic, a Serbian participant, told AFP. “We are fighting for the future of the country.”
There was a heavy police presence around the Pride rally, with officers pushing back small groups of counter-protesters brandishing crosses and religious insignia.
Anti-LGBT protesters are escorted by security guards ahead of the EuroPride march in Belgrade, Serbia, September 17, 2022. Source: AAP / APE
“I am here to preserve Serbian traditions, faith and culture which are being destroyed by sodomites,” Andrej Bakic, 36, a counter-protester from a group surrounded by riot police, told AFP on Saturday. .
The Balkan country, a candidate for EU membership, had come under intense international pressure to allow the march. More than 20 embassies – including the United States, France and Britain – issued a joint statement urging authorities to lift the ban.
The Interior Ministry had also banned any counter-demonstrations, but some far-right groups gathered outside several churches in Belgrade.
Human rights groups and the European Union have called on the Serbian government to lift the ban.
Demonstration of solidarity
At least 15 Members of the European Parliament joined the Pride March in a show of solidarity.
The formal ban came just days after thousands took part in an anti-Pride protest in Belgrade, with biker gangs, Orthodox priests and far-right nationalists demanding the EuroPride rally be scrapped.