Thousands of religious and right-wing activists demonstrated against a planned Pride march due to take place in Belgrade.
It came a day before the Serbian city commenced celebrations for EuroPride, a pan-European international event dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community set to get underway from 12 September.
The event marks the first time a country in south-east Europe has hosted it, as well as being the first to take place outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).
However, protesters opposed to it marched through the streets of Belgrade chanting slogans supporting far-right causes and nationalistic views.
Some used the opportunity to show their alignment with Russia, a longtime ally of Serbia, including a column of bikers who revved their engines in solidarity with those marching to the St Sava cathedral to pray.
“They want to desecrate the sanctity of marriage and the family and impose an unnatural union as a substitute for marriage,” said Patriarch Porfirije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, during a sermon to the crowd.
Aleksandar Vucic, the country’s president, said it was up to the police to decide whether or not EuroPride should be stopped in the wake of the threats.
LGBTQ+ rights groups have however committed to marching, even if the event is called off by authorities.
#EuroPride2022 takes place in Belgrade, Serbia, from 12-18 September. Serbia's leadership @avucic and @SerbianPM can support the event or they can oppose. But they can't hold back progress. See you @belgradepride! pic.twitter.com/V3c6Xyi3ty
— EPOA • EuroPride (@EuroPride) September 1, 2022
“EuroPride is not cancelled, and will not be cancelled,” explained Kristine Garina, president of the European Pride Organisers Association. “During the bidding process for EuroPride 2022, prime minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic promised the full support of the Serbian government for EuroPride in Belgrade, and we expect that promise to be honoured.”
Pride parades have been banned in Serbia in the past, with some even seeing outbursts of violence in the early 2000s.
EuroPride organisers have stated that this year’s event will call on Serbia to legalise same-sex unions, improve the country’s record on transgender rights and tackle anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, among other things.