Join Friday’s demonstration of support with Belgrade Pride

As the message below from a supporter of the banned Pride demonstration in Belgrade shows, much is at stake in the struggle for civil rights in Serbia, not only for the LBGT community but also for others – as reflected by the recent victimisation of anarcho-syndicalists. Socialist Resistance is calling on readers in London to attend Friday’s demonstration: 3:30-5:30 outside the Serbian Embassy, 28 Belgrave Square.

Dear friends,

Once more, I need to share something with you which I find both politically
and personally very important.

This time it is about the Belgrade Pride 2009. Last Friday, I travelled to
Belgrade solely for the purpose of participating in this event. The Pride
was intended as a peaceful march with the goal of demanding equal rights for
the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, such as the right
to freely express one’s sexual orientation without the fear of getting
verbally and/or physically assaulted. Simply put, this right means for
example to be able to walk hand in hand with the person you love, kiss in
public with the person you love, not lose your job because of the person you
love, get invited to your relatives’ and friends’ parties after you have
told them about who the person is whom you love and have your relatives and
friends invite your lover/partner to their parties. All those issues are
things that most of the heterosexual people most of the times do not even
think of because their heterosexual relationships are considered normal and
such are not subjected to (violent) pressures (unless the relationship is
for example one between a minor and an adult, an extra-marital relationship
or a relationship between people of different and mutually opposed
ethnicities or religious groups).

So, basically, the Belgrade Pride 2009 was part of the struggle of the LGBT
people around the world to obtain the right to both love whom they want to
love and to be able to show this affection in public.

In 2001, the first Belgrade Pride took place. It ended up in violence,
caused by some neo-fascist groups. See for example:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppXVAocEHSk

It was only now, in 2009, that a group of organisations dared to undertake
the organisation of the second edition of the Belgrade Pride. The organisers
commissioned a security risk study and worked intensively with the police
and other state institutions in order to obtain their support for the
purpose of guaranteeing the safety of the Pride participants. The importance
of the safety issue cannot be overstated given that in the last month before
the Pride would take place (20.09.2009 was the date), an aggressive
hate-speech campaign was launched by the opponents of the Pride, primarily
the neo-fascist groups “Obraz” and “Srpski narodni pokret 1389”. I saw with
my own eyes the whole of Belgrade being covered with graffiti calling for a
ban of the Pride, killing of gay people or banning them from Serbia. “We are
waiting for you” and “The streets of Belgrade will be covered with blood,
but the Pride will not take place” are two more examples of the (graffiti)
messages which called for lynch of the people taking part in the Pride. So,
not only that the people who wrote these school examples of hate-speech were
not ready to allow their LGBT fellow-citizens the freedom of love, but they
were even actively inciting (deadly) violence against the LGBT population.

A bit less than 24 hours before the Pride would take place, the organisers
held a press-conference in which they announced that the Pride will not take
place. I will quote below two statements of the organisers which are to be
found on the official site of the Pride http://eng.belgradepride.rs/ (in
English) and http://www.belgradepride.rs/ (in Serbian), and for those who
understand Serbian, I highly recommend the programme “Reakcija”, made by the
Serbian B92 TV station: http://www.b92.net/video/video.php?nav_category=933&nav_id=382613 .

Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

Belgrade Pride – banned,
Saturday, 19 September 2009 12:22

This morning organizers of Belgrade pride held their final press conference
before tomorrow’s pride parade. Except pride will not be held, due to high
security risks and a lack of cooperation on the part of state and police to
secure the event. Serbian police have cancelled permission for the pride to
be held in its planned location in the centre of the city.

This is after months of planning by the organizing team, and repeated
assurances from government at all levels, the minister for minorities, and
the Serbian premier and president, that the pride will be secured and
protected.

A full security study was commissioned more than three months ago by pride
organizers and executed by the university defense department constructing a
detailed strategy for all logistical possibilities to carry out pride safely
with full instructions for how police would secure pride participants
entrance to the parade, their safety during the event and their ability to
leave the event unmolested.

This security study also made detailed recommendations for preventative
measures that could be taken by police in the months leading up to pride to
minimize the risk of violence. Police did not undertake these measures and
despite months of meetings with pride organizers and daily meetings in the
past two weeks have failed to act on security measures, instead choosing the
tactic of pressurizing organizers to cancel the event.

In the last 48 hours the police in meetings with pride organizers refused
all cooperation for the securing of the pride, applying further pressure to
organizers to cancel. Police refused to take responsibility for maintaining
public order during the event. Instead telling the Pride organizers that
they would be held responsible for any public damage caused by the hooligans
and fascist groups who have been organizing a violent response to Pride.

In the past week the logistical plans of fascist groups for their violence
towards pride participants have been published in Serbian media, these plans
include calls for the lynching and beating LGBT people attending the pride.
Serbia has laws against hate speech but at no point has there been any move
on the part of authorities to prosecute, instead the official line has been
that this is “a debate, an exchange of opinions.”

Public statements in support of Pride have been made at the level of
European parliament as this is an important step forward for human rights in
Serbia and would signal an end to the rule of right wing violence over the
rights of minority groups and an entry of Serbian society into a new era of
more open equality.

Police have offering an alternative venue on the edge of town, though how
this event might be better secured than the location formerly agreed upon is
not known. Today pride organizers have officially requested that police take
action against fascist and right wing organizations who have issued hate
speech against LGBT groups and pride in the press.

Pride organizers continue to meet today to discuss possible courses of
action to demonstrate against this failure by Serbian state and police to
defend our most basic human rights, the right to safely walk the streets.

Pride March 2009 Is Banned
Saturday, 19 September 2009 13:46

Belgrade Pride 2009 Organizing Committee would like to declare that, during
the meeting with the Serbian Prime Minister today, they were issued an
official decree signed by the Head of Serbian Police, Milorad Veljovic,
which states that the public safety corps of the Republic of Serbia are not
able to ensure the Constitutional right for a peaceful assembly on the
Square in front of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade.

Even though the decree given by the Ministry of the Interior is written in
the form of a recommendation for the change of location of the Pride March
to the Belgrade estuary (Usce), or in front of the Palata Srbije, a
government building and home of many state ministries, it is absolutely
unmistakeable that the Pride March 2009 has been banned. Despite the
declarations of support given by the highest representatives of the
government, in which they exalt the freedom of any and all social groups,
LGBT community included, to publicly manifest their demands, the government
did not put money where its mouth is. There was no act to support the
rhetoric.

This decree is a formal admittance of the government sections of the
Republic of Serbia that they are not able to adequately prevent and sanction
the threats coming from the clero-fascist organizations, nor are they able
to ensure the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens who
publicly announced their legal assembly.

The Organizing Committee states that despite this ban of the Pride March,
Serbian public has been given a clear answer to the question of equality in
our society. This epilogue presents an obligation for all governmental and
non-governmental structures, media, LGBT community, and above all, the
Public Prosecutors and Judicial corps of Republic of Serbia, to form a
strong platform of fight for attainment of LGBT human rights, which were
taken away by this ban. The government must immediately and energetically
prosecute persons and organizations which committed the criminal acts of
calling for a lynch of an entire part of the Serbian population.

Now it is on the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
to fulfil the promise given by the Prime Minister Cvetkovic who said that,
starting with Monday, September 21st, a strong communication with the LGBT
organizations will be established. He also promised that a more positive
atmosphere in the society will be created and all relevant security
prerequisites will be fulfilled to ensure that the Pride March can be held
at the same location where it is being held in the rest of the world – in
the centre of the capital.

The State failed the fundamental test, the next exam period is approaching
fast. The Republic of Serbia has capitulated, we have not.

Belgrade Pride 2009 Organizing Committee

Belgrade, 19.9.2009

This morning the organisers of Beograd Pride 2009 held their final press
conference before tomorrow’s pride parade. The Pride will not be held, due
to the high security risks and a lack of cooperation from the state and the
police to secure the event. The Serbian police has cancelled the permission
for the Pride to be held on its planned location in the centre of the city.

This happens after months of planning by the organising team, and a repeated
assurances from the government at all levels, the minister for minorities,
and the Serbian premier and president, that the Pride will be secured and
protected.

A full security study was commissioned more than three months ago by the
Pride organisers and executed by the University of Belgrade defence
department preparing a detailed strategy for all logistical possibilities in
order to carry out the Pride safely with full instructions for the police on
how to secure the Pride participants entrance to the Parade, their safety
during the event and their ability to leave the event unmolested.

This security study also made detailed recommendations for preventive
measures that could be taken by the police in the months leading up to Pride
to minimise the risk of violence. The police did not undertake these
measures and despite months of meetings with the Pride organisers and daily
meetings in the past two weeks, it failed to conduct the security measures,
instead choosing the tactic of pressurising the organisers to cancel the
event.

In the last 48 hours, the police in the meetings with the Pride organisers
refused all cooperation for securing the Pride, thereby applying further
pressure to the organisers to cancel the event. The police refused to take
responsibility for maintaining the public order during the event. Instead it
told the Pride organisers that they would be held responsible for any public
damage caused by the hooligans and fascist groups which have been organising
a violent response to the Pride.

In the past week the logistical plans of the fascist groups for committing
violence towards the Pride participants have been published in the Serbian
media. These plans include calls for the lynching and beating the LGBT
people attending the Pride. Serbia has laws against hate speech but at no
point has there been any move on the part of the authorities to prosecute.
Instead, the official line has been that this is *a debate, an exchange of
opinions*.

Public statements in support of the Pride have been made at the level of the
European parliament as this event would have meant an important step forward
for the human rights in Serbia and it would have signaled an end to the rule
of right wing violence over the rights of minority groups as well as
entrance of the Serbian society into a new era of more equality.

The police has offered an alternative venue on the edge of town. How this
event might be better secured than at the location formerly agreed upon is
not known. Today, the Pride organisers have officially requested that the
police takes action against the fascist and right wing organisations which
have issued hate speech against LGBT groups and the Pride in the press.

The Pride organisers continue to meet today to discuss possible courses of
action to demonstrate against this failure of the Serbian state and the
police to defend our most basic human rights, the right to safely walk on
the streets.

We want to ask you for your support and action.

Please spread this information broadly, write protest notes to the following
politicians and/or organise protests in front of the Serbian embassies.

THANK YOU!

PLEASE WRITE TO:

Boris Tadic (The President of the Republic of Serbia)

Predsednik Republike Srbije
Andricev Venac 1
11000 Beograd, Serbia
Tel: +381 11 3632 007, 3632 136
Fax: +381 11 658 584, 361 78 65
Email: kontakt.predsednik@predsed

nik.rs

Mirko Cvetkovic (Prime Minister – President of the Serbian Government)

Predsednik Vlade Republike Srbije
Nemanjina 11
11000 Beograd, Serbia
Tel: +381 11 3617-719
Fax: +381 11 3617-609
Email: predsednikvladesrbije@srbija.sr.gov.rs

Ivica Dacic (First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior)

Nemanjina 11
11000 Beograd, Serbia
Tel/Fax: +381 11 3617-586
Email: kabinet.zpv@sr.gov.rs
E-mail: muprs@mup.sr.gov.rs

Dragan Djilas (Mayor of Belgrade)

Dragoslava Jovanovica 2,
11000 Beograd, Serbia
Tel. +381 11 3229-678

Svetozar Ciplic (Minister of Human and Minority Rights)

Bulevar Mihajla Pupina 2
11000 Beograd, Serbia
Email: kabinet@ljudskaprava.gov.rs

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