International Pride Day of LGBT people marked today in Belgrade with the action under the slogan “Hate-Free Zone“ and a short walk through central streets of Belgrade.
This action was jointly organized by Women in Black (ŽUC), Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), IDAHO Belgrade, Gay Lesbian Info Center (GLIC), Association “Rainbow”, Center for Queer Studies (CKS), Novi Sad Lesbian Organization (NLO), “Hestia” Organization, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), and the gathering of around 200 participants also included representatives and activists from other non-governmental organizations, representatives of institutions, international organizations, embassies, and members of the LGBT community.
The action was supported by numerous national and international organizations, institutions and embassies. Support for the “Hate-Free Zone” action and congratulations regarding international Pride Day were received from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Kori Udovički, Office for Human and Minority Rights of the Government of Serbia, The Council of Europe Office in Belgrade whose head Antje Rothemund was present at the event, The EU Delegation in Serbia, OSCE, embassies of the United States of America, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Croatia… Letters of support for the “Hate-Free Zone” action were also received from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, and from Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization dealing with human rights of LGBT people in the USA.
“Hate-Free Zone” began with a gathering in the park Manjež in Belgrade, where Commissioner for Protection of Equality Nevena Petrušić, Deputy Ombudsman Gordana Stevanović, coordinator of Women in Black Staša Zajović and President of GSA Lazar Pavlović addressed the participants. Then the participants, carrying rainbow flags and banners which included messages of solidarity with the flood victims, went for a short walk through the streets Svetozara Markovića and Njegoševa, to Beogradska Street and the place where in 1997 a young Roma boy Dušan Jovanović was killed. Participants paid their respects with a minute of silence and activists laid flowers on the memorial plaque.
The gathering was secured by the police, but there were no incidents during the meeting and the walk, there were no insults or outcries by the citizens who were standing by – on the contrary, a lot of people were greeted the participants, waving or taking pictures of flags and banners.
Bearing in mind the situation in the country after the floods, the event was adjusted and reduced, i.e. it was a lot smaller than it had been originally planned.
“Hate-Free Zone” was organized for a second year in a row. Its main objective is to highlight the current intolerance towards the LGBT community, but also towards other minorities and disadvantaged groups and individuals and to symbolically “free” public places in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia of hate. This campaign is organized every year in different locations but under the same slogan, and last year’s action was dedicated to the memory of deceased French citizen Brice Taton. The organizers chose to dedicate this year’s action to the Roma community and the solidarity towards this group from the LGBT community, with an organized walk to the place where in 1997 a Roma boy, Dušan Jovanović, was killed. Organizers wanted to send a message that such hate crimes must never be repeated in Serbia to anyone and that they will keep fighting persistently and diligently against all forms of xenophobia, racism, homophobia, chauvinism, hatred and intolerance towards different social groups and individuals.
This action was supported by the following organizations: Labris – Organization for lesbian human rights, Egal, JAZAS, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Althea, Center for Girls (Niš), Women Space (Niš), Alternative Center for Girls (Kruševac), European Movement (Niš), Women of the South (Pirot), Independent Women Center (Dimitrovgrad), Bonafide (Pljevlja), Esperanca (Novi Sad), Women for Peace (Leskovac), SOS phone for women and children victims of violence (Vlasotince), Roma Network of Banat, Women’s Association Peščanik (Kruševac), Multiethnic Center for Regional Development Dunav 21 (Bor), Generator (Vranje), LGBTIQ Social Center (Podgorica), Sarajevo Open Center (Sarajevo), Association for Social Research and Communication (Sarajevo, Zenica).
Support from Kori Udovički, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government
Support from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights (Tanja Fajon i Sophie in ‘t Veld)
Support from Roman Waschuk, Ambassador of Canada in Serbia
International Pride Day is marked around the world in memory of the Stonewall Revolution – first open riots against systematic arrests, persecutions and harrassment of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people by the US government. In the night between the 27th and 28th June 1969, in a gay club Stonewall Inn in New York, there occurred (yet) another police raid, which grew into a spontaneous physical confrontation between the police and LGBT people who decided to stand up to harrassment and demand that their human and civil rights be respected. The police arrested the protest leaders, used water cannons to disperse the rest, but the demonstrations spread through New York and continued in the next few days, leading towards great positive changes. These protests mark the very beginning of organised activism and the modern-day movement for the successful exercise of rights of the LGBT community in the US and then also in the rest of the world. Pride, in the context of celebrating the international Pride Day, signifies the need of LGBT people to live their life in dignity just like other citizens, as well as to participate in all socio-political events on an equal footing and not as concealed second-rate citizens with the burden of shame for their own existence.
Info Center GSA