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Branding Serbia: Thank you fascism !

Thursday 14 October 2010, by siawi2

Nine years after the dramatic attempt of a gay pride parade in 2001, when a small group of activists was brutally attacked and persecuted in Belgrade
a new parade was held with strong police forces protecting it.
A thousand activists were escorted by special troops, horses, cars and helicopters and cut off from the hooligan groups waiting to confront them on the route. This was the most protected gay parade in human history, one of the participants said. Last year the parade was cancelled at the very last minute by the police and state authorities for lack of such guarantees.

This year, it was a matter of democratic not only gay pride. Serbia is at the doors of European Community: the visa regime has been abolished some 9 months ago for Serbian citizens traveling in United Europe, and Serbia has officially presented its demand to join the EU. In order to be admitted, Serbia has to cope with EU standards: one of them being the respect of human rights of the minorities.

The Democratic ruling party supported the parade. It’s the party of the pro EU oriented president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, whose deft rule of the nationalists has managed to take Serbia out of the dark times of isolation. As a consequence, during the riots the site of the Democratic party in downtown Belgrade was attacked and burned by molotov bombs.

The parade, which lasted several hours, ended with more than 150 people hurt, most of them policemen. Hooligans smashed windows and looted all over downtown Belgrade, which was preemptively closed to the public the night before. Right winged groups connected to football hooligans and fascistic clerical organizations had plans of their own. The day before a straight family parade was held in the city while the participants carried crosses and icons of the orthodox church. One church representative made a public appeal against the unnatural gay pride parade. During the mayhem, rioters hid in churches and other friendly institutions in their homophobic appeal for a pure nation of straight Serbs.

Once again, as in 2008 when Kosovo province declared its independence from Serbia, rightist hooligans took to the streets, looted the capital, broke windows, damaged cars, and attacked government buildings. Even the emergency hospitals treating in the wounded were besieged. The media was partially reporting on the happenings, much more as riots progressed.
Twitter reports, precious as always, mapped the warfare and the pulse of the participants, from terror to joy.

Moms were messaging their children and children their parents. Trapped activists asking for a way out and for police to drive them home. Street events with tear gas or molotov bombs were tweeted and retweeted. Photos, live streaming, emotions, thoughts.

How did we live and parade before this real time media?

Belgrade is licking its wounds and interpreting the results of the parade. Women in Black, the pacifist women’s group was attacked during the night before the parade because of it open support of gays and war deserters against nationalists and homophobia. However, they were attacked by radicals rather than by the state.

Serbia is definitely on a new democratic course, notwithstanding the hardcore politics of denial over Kosovo.
But Serbian policy still has to back declarations of good will with effective action on the ground. War criminals are still at large instead of being delivered to the Hague war tribunal. Hooligans will do their best to wreck the capital to deter progressive politics. The mayor of Belgrade says that homophobia will grow after these events: already, last year, he was against the parade.

But, Belgrade and Serbia have the power to do better. As one Twitter user said: 9 years ago the emergency ward was full of us, the people from the parade. Today instead it is full of policemen: I guess that is some kind of progress. After all, it was the state that hooligans attacked.