Croatian city of Split divided over gay pride after violent clashes

Split authorities force change to LGBT pride route after attacks last year. Gay organizers will appeal in court

Authorities in the Croatian city of Split should allow the local gay pride march to stick to its route and make sure it is properly protected, Human Rights Watch has said today (31 May).

Last year’s pride in the coastal town of Split turned to violence when an estimated 10,000 anti-gay protestors turned up and some attacked the 200 participants with rocks, bottles and firecrackers.

Several people were injured and riot police held the two sides apart – they were also separated by iron fences.

Officers arrested 137 people, resulting in seven convictions in April 2012.

On 28 May, Split City Council said the march would not be allowed to take the same route as last year, to the city’s waterfront.

City bosses said they needed to avoid a repeat of 2011’s violence. The decision followed several written petitions against the march by Split residents.

But the Split gay pride organizer, Kontra, a lesbian association, stated on its website that it will challenge the city’s decision in court. Kontra and national media have reported that Split police had not expressed any security concerns with the original route.

‘Denying Split’s gay pride march its chosen route rewards violent bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,’ said Lydia Gall, Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch.

‘It sends a signal that LGBT people don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else.’

The Croatian Gender Equality Ombudsman has also condemned the city council’s decision saying the refusal to grant the chosen route constitutes ‘direct discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation’.

The organization claimed city authorities had made their decision on the basis of complaints made by civil organizations with ‘homophobic attitudes’ rather than because of security concerns.

And Croatian media reports indicate that Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic and Public Administration Minister Arsen Bauk have both expressed their support for the original route on their personal social networking sites.

Gall added: ‘Croatian local authorities should not use the threat of homophobic violence as an excuse to escape their duty to ensure that the pride march goes ahead where planned without disruption.’

Last year’s violence came just a day after Croatia was accepted for membership in the European Union. The October 2011 European Commission Annual Progress report on Croatia stated that the government needed to do more to address homophobic and xenophobic sentiment in society.

by Tris Reid-Smith
Source – Gay Star News