Montenegro, a conservative coastal country in Southeastern Europe, had its first official Gay Pride parade on Wednesday, but not without the threat of violence.
Dozens of anti-gay protesters wearing makeshift masks chanted “Kill the gays” and threw rocks and bottles at police and parade participants; LGBT activists reportedly shouted “Kiss the gays!” in response. After police clashed with the protestors, gay rights activists were able to give speeches on tolerance before having to evacuate the area via boat.
Zdravko Cimbaljevic, one of the event organizers and also the first person in Montenegro to openly come out as gay, said of the incident, “I expected opposition but this attack is actually the real image of Montenegro.”
On Tuesday, before the parade, extremists posted fake death notices bearing Cimbaljevic’s name and photograph on buildings throughout the town of Budva.
Though Montenegro’s government has voiced support for the event and urged tolerance, the country’s conservative culture has been slow to accept the LGBT community. In 2012, a group of actors, posing as a straight couple to make a video about tolerance, were violently beaten in the nation’s capital. Montenegro is currently in talks to join the European Union. Doing so requires that the country demonstrate “readiness to protect human rights.”