Anti-violence protest “IT’S ENOUGH!” held in front of Serbian Government building

Participants of the protest under the motto “It’s Enough!”, organised by Gay Straight Alliance in response to a recent attempted murder of a member of the LGBT population in Belgrade and the subsequent release from custody of her underaged attacker, requested from the Serbian Government to set up a national strategy against violence and discrimination and to introduce the notion of hate crime into the Serbian legal code.

Over 200 participants of the protest, organised in front of the Serbian Government Building by Gay Straight Alliance, called attention to the phenomenon of escalation of violence in the Serbian society, which culminated in the night between Friday and Saturday (14-15 October), when an underaged man, who has been identified by the police, wounded 24-year-old A. Ž. with a knife because she was wearing a shirt with an LGBT emblem.

Members of the LGBT community sent a message from the protest that they have had enough of violence, hatred, degradation and insults, as well as that “there is no more hiding within the four walls”.

The protest’s objectives were to draw attention to the escalation of violence in the society, especially violence against minority groups, and to demand from the government to solve this problem without delay.

The protesters wanted to submit to the Government their requests – that the Government publicly condemn all hate crimes, including those against sexual minorities, and that it create a national programme for combatting violence and discrimination. Protesters asked that all reported cases be processed with urgency, that the perpetrators be found and punished, that the police and the prosecution work more efficiently on such and similar cases, and that the notion of hate crime be introduced into the Criminal Code of Serbia.

President of Gay Straight Alliance Lazar Pavlović told the reporters that members of the LGBT population wish to live freely without fear, like all the other citizens of Serbia.

“We cannot as a society back down before violence and the state must react with systemic measures in order to prevent violence in the future”, Pavlović said.

He said that the investigative judge, with his decision to release from custody the underaged man who attacked A. Ž. with a knife, sent a message to the public that violence is permissible.

“People will no longer tolerate such things. They are very dissatisfied. This happens all the time, but very little reaches the public ear. People wish to protect their lives, they want the country to finally begin systemically dealing with violence and discrimination”, he said.

“This is not just about the LGBT population, but also, for example, about attacks on bus drivers, or on religious buildings in Vojvodina or across Serbia, or about violence against women, and so on. This is a symbol of everything that the country failed to do in the past years – to systemically begin combatting violence”, added Pavlović.

He invited all citizens who have had enough of violence to send a message together to the state that they will no longer be silent, and to demand that they finally begin solving these problems.

Pavlović posted the requests of the LGBT population on the door of the Serbian Government, as well as a letter from the wounded A. Ž., who wrote that she was outraged and angry because the person who tried to take her life was still at large.

“I wish to live and I wish for my life to continue. I do not wish to go anywhere, this is my city, which I love, and I will not let such maniacs drive me away. And I do not wish to have them represent Serbia and our future”, said the letter of A. Ž., who also received a visit in the Emergency Centre by the Minister of Interior Ivica Dačić.

“I am a little sorry to be here, because it will be an excuse for Ivica Dačić that the freedom of assembly is possible, but it isn’t. We’ll still be in the margin of margins”, Boban Stojanović from Queeria told the assembled activists.

Gay activist Predrag Azdejković said that it is worrysome that this violent man was released simply because he is under-age, even though “he had a knife and he attempted murder”.

Present at the protest were also members of other non-governmental organisations: representatives of “Women in black”, “Human Rights Watch”, Green Youth, as well as from several foreign embassies.

At the first larger protest of LGBT people after last year’s “Pride Parade” there were also individuals who are not members of this population but who support their protest against violence in the society, including Željko Ivanji, MP (URS).

Ivanji told Tanjug agency that the police and the judiciary need to protect citizens from violence in an efficacous manner, and that the release of the suspect for A. Ž.’s attack sadly shows that the government bodies are not doing their job properly.

“I know that it is difficult to change people’s awareness, especially when it comes to homophobia, but that task is challenging and we all need to continue one by one. This is a series of personal battles, but we all as a society must also say: stop to the violence”, said Ivanji, who is also a member of Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

“I am here to try in person to stop the rising violence, which reminds me of the appearance of fascism”, Ivanji said.

Director of New Policy Center Vladimir Todorić warned that those who do not sympathise with the members of the LGBT community today should bear in mind that their own safety will depend on the safety of endangered minorities in the future.

“If members of this population cannot today walk freely, if they are being beaten up because of the clothes they wear, nobody in Serbia is guaranteed either safety or freedom of speech and behaviour, and maybe not even the right to live”, stated Todorić to Tanjug agency.

Photo gallery of the protest; videos of the protest which were made before it’s start…

The protest, which was attended by about a hundred citizens, was secured by a large number of gendarmerie in riot gear, but there were no incidents.

Near the Government Building, police took into custody three men for not having any identification.

MUP told Agency Beta that the men did not create an incident nor did they have any connection with the protesters, but they were brought into the police station just to verify their identity.

The whole time traffic went undisturbed in surrounding streets, and drivers, except for the occassional honking, did not pay attention to the protesters, who waved rainbow flags and chanted “it’s enough”.

Next to the building’s entrance there was a large sign with the message “These hands are not violent” under which there were bowls with paints in rainbow colours, and the protesters left their handprints on the sign.

The protesters also carried signs saying “These hands are not violent”, “Homophobia can be treated”, “I don’t tolerate torture”, “Four walls for violent people”, “Violence in the streets-your responsibility”, “We are all A.Ž.” and “It’s not Serbian to be silent”. There were flags of the gay movement, but also a Serbian flag.

An original stance at the protest was provided by Milutin Mlađenović, who publicly offered the keys to his car “ford fiesta” to anyone “who can give a reasonable answer for why they are against the gay population”.

Requests to the Serbian Government and other institutions:
  • That the Government of the Republic of Serbia clearly, publicly and without delay condemn all form of violence and hatred which are caused by racial, religious, national or other bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia or mysogyny
  • That the Government of the Republic of Serbia URGENTLY create and implement a national programme for combatting violence and discrimination
  • That the work of police, prosecution and judiciary on cases of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and other cases caused by hatred from now on be effective and non-discriminatory
  • That all reported cases be processed WITH URGENCY, and all offenders be found and punished
  • That the Government of the Republic of Serbia urgently propose to the National Assembly the introduction of the notion of hate crime into the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia, which will be considered an aggravating circumstance while processing cases
Message of the attacked A.Ž. to the protesters:

I am one of many who have had this happen to them – it could have happened to any one of you!

I know my friends are afraid to report similar attacks which happen to them, but I have decided not to back down. I defended myself that night, and now I will not keep quiet! And it does not matter whether I am a lesbian or I am straight – somebody tried to kill me!

I am outraged and angry that they released the person who tried to take my life… What should have happened in order for the authorities to hold him and remove him from the streets, as dangerous as he is? If I hadn’t defended myself and if he had managed to stab me or kill me, would that be reason enough to hold him in custody? What happened to me will keep happening until we offer resistance to both those who commit violence and those who instigate it.

Because, people, life is precious! Don’t let anyone trample you, don’t hide within your “four walls“ and don’t be afraid of freedom!

I wish to live and I wish for my life to continue. I do not wish to go anywhere, this is my city, which I love, and I will not let such maniacs drive me away. And I do not wish to have them represent Serbia and our future!

Thank you immensely for all your support, it really means a lot to me.


Source: Agencies, B92, Mondo, Info center GSA
Photo: Tanjug, Blic, Srđan Žikić (S media)