The following is a first-hand report of the recent gay rights parade in Serbia, where police and others attacked the marchers.
Belgrade 30 June, 2001
It was supposed to be a feast, the first public demonstration of the gay lesbian movement, celebrating their international day, in the main Square of the Republic, where all our democratic history has happened. The only thing we feared, was bad weather. OK, let’s be honest, a big amount of homophobia is going on for years in Serbia, strengthened by the wars, nationalism…But also marginalized by all those men’s issues, the latest being the extradition of Milosevic, the guy who was the role model for much of that “manly” behavior, which included bombing, killings, ethnic cleansing and finally mass graves on our doorsteps, under our living bodies.
Two days ago when the ex president was suddenly transported to Hague, his supporters organized a meek and under control demonstration by the police in this same square. Not today: a lively, colored and happy group, of 30-50 gays and lesbians was supposed to sing and dance in the square and afterwards a conference was supposed to be held at Students’ Cultural center, a traditionally free alternative space for politics and culture. This is what I saw happen:
At three p.m. I was at the square, approaching a heavy crowd of mostly young males with bald heads , big muscles and tight T shirts, wondering where is my lot…I heard a cameraman standing next to me say: now this will last only a few seconds, no way such a thing will pass in Serbia…I wanted to answer him , no way, this is my Serbia too, but I was already on guard. After few seconds I was overtaken by the stampede of a wild lot running to the other side of the square: I spotted the gay group with balloons singing…I ran towards them too: it was a few hundred screaming, insulting, violent people against the few. The police were invisible, here and there you could spot a special force guy. The flock attacked the small group which begin to disperse in all directions…
I followed a few of them: next thing I saw was a unknown guy to me with dyed blonde hair being repeatedly beaten with sticks…his head was bleeding, his nose…My friend was trying to drag him away, ten policemen made a circle around us…but hundreds of them were breaking the circle. There were many journalists, with cameras…I thought I will assist a lynch, I felt utterly helpless and lost. But the police stared shooting in the air, the hooligans draw back for a second, the next minute they were hurling screams “whores, degenerates” towards the square again. And there were other common policemen standing and watching: as they hit a woman from a feminist group giving an interview, throwing eggs at anybody who seemed a participant…as a girl passerby was dragged and insulted…
With other two friends we started going towards the Students Cultural Center: a group of guys followed us, insulting us and spitting on us, among crowds of common people. My friend turned around and said: calm down honey…I felt as killing him. The passersby were commenting in different ways, mostly, why bother with queers, kill them all, they are ruining our clean Serbia. Some were just afraid or dumbfounded. Nobody I heard said: let them be, they are people as we are, they have their human rights.
We arrived at the center, it was closed, police forces were all around and some women onlookers were screaming to them: so you voted for democracy and this is what you get, you should protect us, the straights, you assholes, because these decent men are protecting our honor. An elderly man was screaming and sweating, give me the lesbians I want to rape them…We just stood and watched, giving interviews to all who wanted to hear a statement: the only words I could say was, this is my Serbia too…this is fascism.
Only afterwards, in the center, when hooligans were being arrested and broke