Montenegrins staged their first gay pride march today in the capital under heavy police guard, part of the Balkan state’s efforts to bolster its application to join the European Union by showing its commitment to human rights.
After a tense but incident-free march by about 150 people, guarded by almost 2,000 police, scuffles broke out in several places between police and people opposed to same-sex rights.
Police fired tear gas to repel anti-gay extremists who threw rocks and firebombs at officers protecting the march, officials said. About 60 people were injured.
The half-hour walk through the centre of Podgorica was the second attempt to hold a gay pride march in Montenegro, a mountainous country of 680,000 people which began EU accession talks last year.
In July, protesters chanting “Kill the gays” clashed with police protecting about 40 marchers in the coastal town of Budva. This time streets were cordoned off and uniformed police were deployed on the roofs of nearby buildings while a police helicopter hovered overhead.
Danijel Kalezic, the head of Queer Montenegro, who organised the march, said: “We were up against enormous challenges but we did it… From this day we are no longer invisible.”
The small column of marchers included a number of human rights activists and journalists.