Far-right Serbian groups have warned of bloodshed if LGBT activists go ahead with a pride march planned for Saturday, the first in the capital Belgrade since a 2010 rally was disrupted by Molotov-wielding ultra-nationalists.
“Although we have nothing against them, we do not want them on the streets, spreading LGBT propaganda,” Ivan Ivanovic of Naši told a press conference on Tuesday, Balkan Insightreported. “People are deeply unsatisfied, and are telling us that they will go onto the streets in vast numbers to protest. If that happens again, we all know that Belgrade streets will see bloodshed, and that’s in no one’s interest.”
Echoing rhetoric in Russia, Ivanovic and his collaborators attempted to frame their opposition to the march as a defense of Serbian culture and the Orthodox Church against political manipulation by the United States and Western European nations.
Ivanovic said the march was backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the embassies of Holland, Germany, and Norway, “which shows that someone feels it is in their interest to undermine our constitution, laws, and above all our Orthodox religion and our culture.”
Mladen Obradovic, recently released from the prison where he served a two-year sentence for his role in the 2010 riots, struck the same tone.
“Foreign forces … are destroying us from the outside, trying to take a part of our territory,” he said, referring to breakaway Kosovo. “But the internal destruction is even worse … by allowing a parade of homosexuals who claim to feel endangered.”
Obradovic said his organization, Srbski Obraz, would hold several events on the day of the pride march, despite having been banned by the constitutional court.
Other events scheduled for Saturday that seem designed to incite Serbian nationalists and religious conservatives include a “National Gathering for Childbirth” and a rally for the protection of the Serbian Cyrillic script.
It’s unclear whether these leaders can make good on these threats, though the possibility of violence lead to authorities canceling pride marches in 2011 and 2012. Belgrade’s gay pride rally in October 2010 ended in clashes between riot police and far-right nationalist activists wielding Molotov cocktails and stun grenades. They also set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party and attacked the studios of Serbian television. Dozens were injured.
Pride week has been underway in Belgrade since last weekend, and so far no violent incidents have been reported.
“As far as we’re concerned, it is certain (to go ahead),” Belgrade Pride organizer Goran Miletic told a news conference, Reuters reported.
J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.