Belgrade police clash with hooligans during Pride march. Photo: Dado Ruvic/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
In July, police in Belgrade arrested a group of hooligans suspected of starting a fire during a Pride march in the city centre. After days of wrangling between the police and the protesters, the charges against the suspects were dropped. That said, those responsible for starting a fire “will have to answer for their actions,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said, and there have since been calls for the police to have arrested a wider group of hooligans.
The incident in Belgrade has been used by conservative media as a warning of the dangers of LGBT pride events in Serbia. A video of the fire, in which a small number of police and a “largish group” of demonstrators were involved, went viral in Serbia, and there have also been calls for the Serbian Orthodox Church to speak out against any such events in its territory.
This has prompted some people to suggest that the Belgrade incident was simply a case of a police crackdown on a group of hooligans, rather than a more serious case of discrimination and violence. “Of course if police had had a reason to do something it would have been different, but they were just trying to quell a riot,” says Tomislav Jovanovic.
“Police are always portrayed in some situations as being against minorities. This is why the government should think hard before they send police on to the streets,” Jovanovic adds. If the Belgrade case was simply a police reaction to the group of hooligans, it was a mistake on the part of both the police and the government, says Vucic.
In the footage that went viral on social media, the police are seen tackling the group of hooligans with batons. The rioters – some wearing masks – were wearing all-black outfits and were shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great). They also threw objects at the police, including a burning object that went out through