Gay rights activists stage first Montenegro march

Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:56am EDT
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By Petar Komnenic

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegrins staged their first gay pride march on Sunday in the capital under heavy police guard, part of the Balkan state's efforts to bolster its application to join the European Union by showing its commitment to human rights.

After a tense but incident-free march by around 150 people, guarded by almost 2,000 police, scuffles broke out in several places between police and people opposed to same sex rights. Police used teargas to disperse them, a Reuters reporter said.

The half-hour walk through the centre of the capital Podgorica was the second attempt to hold a gay pride march in Montenegro, a mountainous country of 680,000 people which began EU accession talks last year.

In July, protesters chanting "Kill the gays" clashed with police protecting about 40 marchers in the coastal town of Budva.

This time streets were cordoned off and uniformed policemen were deployed on the roofs of nearby buildings while a police chopper hovered above the scene.

"We were up against enormous challenges but we did it...From this day we are no longer invisible," said Danijel Kalezic, the head of Queer Montenegro who organized the march.

"This was the first Pride and every year there will be more and more of us," he said.

The small column of gay rights supporters, including a number of human rights activists and journalists, carried banners that read "These streets belong to us, too" and "Everyone has their own right".   Continued...

Gay-rights supporters carry a rainbow flag as they walk during a Pride March in Podgorica, October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic