The Serbian government banned the LGBT Pride parade in Belgrade for the third consecutive year, making the announcement Friday, just a day before the event was scheduled to take place. This happened even though the parade was officially announced months before, with the support of police, no less.
The government bureau that sanctions these events reportedly debated it for hours. Even after a tight vote (it was reportedly 6-6 at some point during the debates), the bureau decided to stop the parade again. As before, members declared it was banned because “the government couldn’t guarantee security” to parade participants or to people or property near the route.
This was not the first time the Serbian government forbade the expression of support for LGBT rights in this largely Orthodox Christian country. The first and only Pride parade ever to take place in Belgrade was held in 2010, and ever since, the government has been canceling the event and citing security concerns.
This year, however, the decision was not accepted. Despite the government's ban on an official event, local LGBT people and their supporters resolved to walk through the streets of Belgrade. At 11 p.m., a group of more than 200 activists bravely gathered around Serbia's main governmental building and walked through the main city streets — followed by almost twice as many police officers — to the Parliament of Serbia, carrying flags and cheering “This Is Serbia” and “This Is Pride.” These activists organized themselves in less than four hours since the decision to ban the parade had been made public.
Even though the government of Serbia showed a worrying lack of interest and capability regarding the protection of its citizens, a couple of hundred of its residents and their guests proved that LGBT people in this country still have enough will, strength, and motivation to stand up against the government that is denying them their right to assembly and expression, and that they will bravely stand up to the oppression, no matter if the government forbids it or not. If nothing else, this is something they can be proud of.
ALEKSANDAR KOKOTOVIC is an international outreach director for a Serbian think tank. He studies political science at the University of Belgrade.