Gay rights march in Belgrade triggers violent riots

Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:42pm EDT
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The violence occurred just two days before a planned visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who wants to highlight Washington's support for Belgrade's EU aspirations.


Gangs of tough-looking youths threw stones, crowbars, wooden planks, bottles and other objects at police, smashed windows of cars and buses and looted several central shops including that of Italian retailer Benetton. Some sang nationalist songs.

Rioters were injured by charging police, backed by armored vehicles, who wielded clubs and shields and used teargas and stun grenades against their attackers.

Police said they had detained 101 people as of late afternoon and kept 53 in custody. Debris lay scattered across the main streets of central Belgrade and clouds of teargas rose from the ground.

"It was more like death march. The atmosphere was terrible," said Susanne Simon-Paunovic, a German married to a Serb who attended the rally.

Milena, a 36-year old lesbian activist said: "It is a shame for me to march, to stand for what I am, and to have thousands of cops protect me from hysterical nationalists."

Traditionally conservative Balkan societies have been slow to adjust to open homosexuality, and last year a Serbian gay parade was canceled because of threats.

"This government wants to protect a deviant, wicked and non-Christian minority against the good, law-abiding majority," said Milija, 28, a construction engineer who described himself as a religious nationalist.

(Additional reporting by Fedja Grulovic, Jaska Scekic, and Adrian Tanner in Belgrade)

(Writing by Adam Tanner, editing by Noah Barkin)