A gay pride parade in the Croatian city of Split, which Catholic nationalists in Croatia said they were planning to bomb, went off without trouble on Saturday. Authorities brought in 700 police and closed off much of the city and banned counter protests.
Last year, the 200-strong march was attacked by thousands of people and there were 13 injuries. 137 people were arrested.
A Facebook group protesting the parade had posted a picture of petrol bombs which it said were to be thrown at participants — which included four Croatian cabinet members.
Croatia made it clear that the safety of the parade was key to its determination to prove that Croatia is a suitable candidate for the European Union (EU). Croatia’s Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić said:
We believe in the principle that if you fail the first time, try and try again.
The Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule on behalf of the European Commission welcomed the maintenance of Split Gay Pride.
Many local residents participated, as did people from elsewhere in the Balkans and from EU and other institutions and many Croatian intellectuals, including philosopher and writer Predrag Matvejevic, director Rajko Grlic and activist and journalist Drago Pilsel. The Croatian Police Minister, Rajko Ostojic, led the procession.
In the Croatian city of Rijeka, about 300 people gathered following a call posted on Facebook in support of activists in Split.
Pusic said (via Google Translate):
We came to defend the Croatian law, to combat violence, and to warn everyone in Croatia has the right to be yourself without any discrimination.
Nationalist Split Mayor Željko Kerum had said that gay parades were not welcome in Split, and said:
I am glad that this year’s Split Pride went without incidents because Split residents listened to our recommendation to ignore the parade.
Kerum has also said that he’d never let a Serb or a Montenegrin marry his daughter.
There were arrests, police said, but they were of people associated with the parade. One man was arrested for yelling at the parade.
Watch video of the parade:
Picture courtesy GroenLinks. Banner reads "hate is not a family value"