Supported by an outspoken Orthodox bishop, thousands marched in Belgrade to demand the cancellation of the LGBT festival
Serbian authorities on Monday received an official request from a civic group to cancel the “Europride” an LGBT event scheduled for mid-September, for security reasons. The petition came a day after tens of thousands of people marched through Belgrade wearing Orthodox Christian symbols and signs such as “Hands off our children.” The march was reportedly blessed by a bishop, recorded last week as saying he would anathematize anyone involved in the event.
According to the NGO “Right Serbia” who filed the petition, the pride parade scheduled for September 17 endangers public morals and increases the risk of violence, destruction of property and large-scale unrest. Belgrade authorities have yet to comment on the request.
EuroPride 2022 is scheduled to take place September 12-18 and is expected to attract tens of thousands of LGBT activists from across Europe, ending with the march from the Serbian parliament to the Kalemegdan fortress overlooking the Danube.
On Sunday, however, tens of thousands of Belgrade residents marched in the opposite direction, in an Orthodox procession intended to demonstrate their opposition to the event. Psalmody “Hands off our children!” and “No to the occupation” marchers sang Orthodox hymns and patriotic songs, while carrying crosses, icons and flags.
The organizers estimated between 20 and 30,000 people, while initial estimates by the police and the media spoke of less than 5,000. President Aleksandar Vucic referred to this estimate on Monday, referring to the march at a conference of press without being asked about it.
“Last night we had a much larger protest against EuroPride, some 4,650 people, more than the biggest opposition rallies ever,” he said.
It was a different tone than he used on Friday, when he dismissed criticism of “Europride” saying those who oppose “someone who walks” should “take the day to picnic” on nearby Mount Avala.
In the same TV interview, Vucic criticized Bishop Nikanor of Banat for his remarks about acting Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who is a lesbian. Vucic said Nikanor offended Serbia and humiliated the church “Far more than Brnabic or anyone else has ever done.”
Bishop Nikanor reportedly blessed his clergy to participate in the Belgrade protest on Sunday. Speaking after a church service last week, he condemned the “Europride” as blasphemy and desecration of Serbia, claiming that he would have taken up arms against her if he were not a cleric.
“They come to desecrate our capital, nothing is sacred to them”, said the bishop. “We will all rise up against him, starting with me” he added. “I will anathematize anyone who participates in or organizes such a thing. That’s all I can do. If I had weapons, I would use them, but I don’t.
Sunday’s march was denounced by opposition activist Dragan Sutanovac, a former Democratic Party leader and former defense minister who now advocates Serbia joining NATO. He called it’s a walk “against Serbia in the European Union, against the sanction of Russia, against Western values, so that Serbia can become Chechen and Talibanized”, among others.
Meanwhile, the NGO “Lesbian and Gay Solidarity Network” on Monday urged the government to urgently purchase monkeypox vaccines and distribute them free of charge to high-risk groups such as homosexuals, who account for all cases registered in Serbia so far.
Epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic also urged vaccinating all members of the LGBT population. The doctor, who has advocated strict Covid-19 mandates, told the Beta news agency that the next “Europride” could be a “epidemiological bomb” but did not ask for its cancellation, advising those present to “avoid intimate contact with non-permanent partners” In place.