Neo-Nazis Break up Slovakia’s 1st Gay Pride March

by Kilian Melloy
Monday May 24, 2010

In what the Slovakian press is calling "a day of shame," neo-Nazi Groups, who attacked marchers with eggs, tear gas, and their fists, broke up that nation's first Pride march. In the wake of the attack, the full-scale Pride parade, which had been scheduled to take place subsequent to the rally and march, was cancelled due to security concerns.

The attack took place even though the event had been planned for months and foreign dignitaries were present, casting doubts on the ability of the nation's police to plan for large public events or to keep order, reported The Slovak Spectator on May 22.

The pre-Pride rally was attended by about 500 people, the newspaper reports, and proceeded through the city of Bratislava. A group of about 80 members of neo-Nazi group Slovensk√° Pospolitos? beset the rally. A May 24 follow-up article in the same publication reported that the foreign dignitaries who attended expressed "disgust" with the anti-gay "thugs" who descended on the rally. A joint letter from 17 embassies located in Bratislava declared, "Our countries, like Slovakia, are committed to defending basic rights and freedoms and in ensuring equality and dignity for all." Individual diplomats also weighted in.

"My first impulse was disgust with the anti-democratic forces who were bent on preventing others from exercising their rights," Keith Eddins, the US chargé d'affaires, said. "But I was particularly proud of the participants, who didn't panic and showed a lot of courage." Added Eddins, "What struck me was that the only people engaged in deviant behavior there were the thugs."

"I don't deny having felt a little nervous at that point," disclosed Michael Roberts, the British ambassador. "But I was quite pleased by how quickly both the Pride security and the police dealt with the various incidents."

"I liked the fact they showed restraint, and that they were careful to praise the police for the protection they were providing," said Georges Lemieux of the Canadian Embassy Office. "They may not have achieved everything they planned, but they set a good precedent for next year."

Homosexuality is not illegal in Slovakia and the age of consent is the same for gays and straights alike. Moreover, the nation has anti-discrimination laws on the books. The mostly Catholic nation reportedly enjoys economic prosperity, with its rate of economic growth among the top European Union countries. Slovakia qualifies as a "high income" country, as do many First World nations. One poll shows that nearly 70% of Slovaks are accepting of gays.

In the comparatively impoverished nation Belarus, the police targeted demonstrators at a recent Pride event in which about 40 participants suddenly unfurled a rainbow flag and marched along the street, surrounded by press. Police vans pulled up and officers gave chase to fleeing participants. a dozen participants were placed under arrest. Though the Pride event was brief and was met with a sometimes-brutal police response, it was nonetheless remarked in the international press as marking the first occasion on which the Pride flag was displayed during a political gathering.

Another former Soviet country, Lithuania, saw its Pride celebration approved and then canceled, only to be given the okay once more as the needed permits were issued and revoked, fears of anti-gay mob violence surfaced, and the courts intervened.

And in Moscow, Pride organizers were denied permission for the annual event for the fifth consecutive year, according to a May 20 Ria Novosti article. "This year's ban turned out to be the fifth one in succession," said Russian lawyer and GLBT equality activist Nikolai Alexeyev. "Similar parades were prohibited by the Moscow mayor in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009," Alexeyev noted, adding, "Despite the requirements of the relevant legislation the Moscow government has not offered the organizers any alternatives for holding the planned event," he said.

But Alexeyev vowed that the show would go on, saying, "The action will be held anyway. Gay activists have held unauthorized rallies every year, being beaten and detained by police." The Moscow event is expected to go forward May 29. Details about exact place and time are under wraps.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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