Serbian police briefly clashed with far-right protesters who attempted to prevent the annual Belgrade Gay Pride Parade on Sunday.
Roughly 150 far-right supporters, some dressed as Orthodox monks brandishing Christian banners and crosses, gathered in protest on 15 September in the hours leading up to the parade.
At least five protesters were detained by police after refusing to move from the route of the march which wove through downtown Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Bnarbic attended the parade with her female partner and marched alongside hundreds of other activists.
Bnarbic is the first openly gay prime minister in the Balkan state, however, some Serbian gay community members say she has made minimal efforts to promote their rights since she came into power in 2017.
“Today we are sending a message of tolerance which has to be preserved in Serbia,” she said at the event.
“I think we are heading in the right direction.”
Many attendees and activists carried rainbow flags, European Union flags and banners calling for action and equality.
“We do not decide about your marriage,” one banner read.
Another read: “I will not be silent.”
One banner simply stated: “Queers against Capitalism.”
Activists attempted to stage the first Belgrade Gay Pride parade in 2010, but the efforts were undermined by attacks and riots from individuals and ultranationalist groups.
Since 2014 – the first year organisers held a successful march – the parade has become an annual event in Belgrade despite small pools of participation.
One of the march organisers, Marko Mihailovic, noted that despite underwhelming turnouts, the parade continues to spark change across the nation.
“We still do not have 10,000 people, nor millions of people, but many young people who are afraid are watching this and we are encouraging them,” he told RFE/RL.
This encouragement is also spreading through other parts of Eastern Europe, with Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, holding its first gay pride march on the same day.
Roughly 2000 activists and supporters paraded in the eastern Ukrainian city, making the march one of the larger LGBT community events to be held in Ukraine in recent years.
Many of the marchers waved rainbow flags while chanting, “Kharkiv For All, Security For All!” and: “We Are All Equal, We Are All Different.”
The march went forward despite threats of legal action against event organisers from Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiv Kernes, in an attempt to prevent the parade.
As with Belgrade’s parade, a heavy police presence, including helmeted riot police carrying crowd-control shields, monitored the event to ensure peace.
Despite the festivities, right-wing demonstrators briefly clashed with police towards the end of the parade in a park near the marching route. Ukrainian authorities allege that two police officers were treated for exposure to tear gas or pepper spray and detained 17 people as a result.