GSA activity in Kragujevac banned; GSA: Who is governing Kragujevac – Veroljub Stevanovic or “Chetnik“?

Belgrade, 21.06.2012

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; Alliance) informs the public that by decision of the Kragujevac City Government and the Security Council of the city of Kragujevac a performance „Demonstration of the cardboard LGBT dolls“, organized by GSA and four other partner associations, that was suppose to take place today in Kragujevac, was banned. The performance is a part of the project „Together for LGBT equality“.

As it was communicated this morning to the Alliance by Bojana Stanic, from the Department for communal affairs and supervision of the city of Kragujevac (Department), a certain „Movement of proud citizens of Kragujevac“ requested on Monday, June 18, a permission for occupancy of the public space for the purpose of organizing a public rally in Kragujevac at the same time and location that already on Friday, June 15, Alliance requested from the Department in accordance to the valid procedure, fully respected by the GSA. For that purpose the Security Council of the city of Kragujevac had a session, presided by the mayor Veroljub Stevanovic, when it was concluded that two organizations with opposed views and convictions announced rallies at the same location and the same time, thus it was estimated that having simultaneously these two rallies would endanger „reputation of the city of Kragujevac as one of the safest cities in Serbia“. For that reason the Council expressed opinion not to permit the two rallies, based on which Department for communal affairs issues a decision to refuse a GSA request to hold the scheduled activity.

Alliance was already constrained once, on Friday, June 15, to postpone the same activity for similar obstructions from the City Government of Kragujevac. Even though GSA reported the event in timely manner, informing itself beforehand about all regulations and necessary documentations, GSA activists were told only half hour before the beginning of the event by the communal inspector that a certain document was missing, without which it was impossible to continue with the activity. The GSA representatives, who were trying to resolve this newly emerged issue in the building of the City Government, were told that it was for „the well being of the organizers“, without any explanation whether it was a question of security or just a technical obstacle for getting the permit to place a simple stand in the center of the city. Newspaper „Sumadija press“, whose journalists followed the whole situation, already wrote about this problem.

For Gay Straight Alliance it is completely clear that with today’s motion of the Kragujevac’s city government it was made public something that was obvious during the last attempt to organize this event. Kragujevac, contrary to the claims of its mayor and the local Security Council, is not a secure city for its citizens and visitors. Immediately upon arrival to Kragujevac last Friday, activists were exposed to safety problems, since few younger men dressed in dark t-shirts, members of the local football supporting group “Red Devils”, were constantly intimidating and following them. One of the leaders of that group (called “Chetnik”, according to the information GSA managed to get from the employees of the City Government), together with two other men, were following and asking information about the movement of the activists, while they were trying to resolve “administrative” issues with the permissions. At the same time the other activists, who were waiting the solution of this newly emerged situation, heard a few side comments among which one by a man who was dissatisfied “that he didn’t know where the fagots are now, and they were chasing them around the city”. This situation will certainly not be resolved by moving the problems „under the carpet“, that is, by merely prohibiting regularly announced and peaceful action, with few cardboard dolls placed around and a stand for distribution of educational material, but rather with strategic and synchronized action of the local police and government. But, since obviously for something like that there is no will, and the local government is retreating under the smallest threat, GSA is rightfully asking itself who is really governing Kragujevac, elected mayor – Veroljub Stevanovic or that certain “Chetnik” and his hooligans?

GSA also reminds that its activists were already exposed once to the incident and violence in Kragujevac, when in March 2009 a presentation of its Annual Report was violently interrupted at the Student Cultural Center (SKC), where just after the beggining of the conference a group of hooligans broke the entry doors of the SKC with stones, destroying also a few windows of the room, shouting insults to present journalists and citizens, and to the entire LGBT population. There are indications that „Chetnik“ was the organizer of that attack also at that time, but he was never prosecuted for it, just the direct attackers.

Nonetheless, GSA is convinced that today citizens of Kragujevac, the same way citizens of Novi Sad, where the identical rally took place last week, would have had understanding for the planned event. However, it is obvious that the citizens of Kragujevac are hostages of their government, which instead of confronting the bullies, is making compromises with them and is prohibiting a simple and harmless activity. That is why GSA will not attempt anymore to organize this event in Kragujevac, considering that the basic security and political conditions are lacking. At the same time GSA is hoping that in the foreseeable future it will have an opportunity to hang out and talk with the citizens of Kragujevac in their city, maybe under some other government that is ready and willing to protect its citizens and guests according to the laws and in the spirit of tolerance, and the one that will not be afraid and succumb to a group of hooligans.

GSA Info Center