Warning of violence during Serbia gay pride march

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 11:34 AM
Warning of violence during Serbia gay pride march

Serbia's police chief warned Thursday violence by extremists is likely during this weekend's gay pride march, and urged the organizers to cancel it.

Ivica Dacic said he made his warning so "bloodshed does not happen in Belgrade," Serbia's capital. A far-right extremist group has scheduled its own gathering on the same day, rising the prospect of violence.

"If police would decide, there would be no gay pride march," Dacic said, adding that "if the political stand prevails" to allow the march, police will protect the participants.

Serbia is under Western pressure to respect human rights if it wants to one day join the European Union.

Last year, more than 100 people were injured, cars were burned and shops looted during a similar pro-gay march.

Dacic said anti-gay extremists could set buildings on fire in the suburbs of Belgrade on Sunday, while clashing with police in the center of the capital.

He said police lacked equipment before the march.

"While we speak about human rights, we have to repair our water cannons," Dacic told reporters.

Government spokesman Slobodan Homen said that all those who have announced their public gatherings in accordance with the law "have the right to protest and be protected."