Police in Serbia have banned a gay pride march in Belgrade for the second year in a row, citing security concerns but also appearing to comply with a demand from the leader of the Orthodox Christian Church.
The Associated Press reports, "Police said they are banning the march planned over the weekend because they fear a repeat of the violence in 2010, when right-wing groups attacked such an event in Belgrade, triggering day-long clashes with the police that left more than 100 people injured."
The influential head of the Orthodox Church in Serbia had asked authorities to ban the march, calling the event a “tragicomic parade of shame” that insults the country’s Christian tradition.
Serbian news source B92 reported on a statement from Patriach Irinej that said the parade “casts a heavy moral shadow on Belgrade, on Serbia's longstanding Christian culture and the dignity of the family, as the basic unit of humanity.”
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic had said the event would be banned if security risks were deemed too high. Goran Miletić, a member of the Pride Parade Organizing Committee, said his group “will not just sit” in response to a ban, according to B92.
Irinej also asked Dacic to ban an exhibition by Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin that shows Jesus Christ in women’s clothing and high heels, according to Reuters. The exhibition, called “Ecce Homo,” is scheduled to open Wednesday, and the Orthodox leader called it “scandalous.”
The Serbian government, which wants to join the European Union, faces Western pressure to allow the parade and free expression. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom said that “all eyes are on Serbia this week” as Belgrade Pride 2012 takes place, B92 reported.