The first-ever gay pride parade held today in the southeastern European country of Montenegro was interrupted by violent clashes with extremists shouting “kill the gays,” the Associated Press reported.
Hundreds of extremists attacked gay activists and collided with police officers, despite the conservative countries hopes of improving its human rights record as it attempts to join the European Union.
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, according to the AP, repeated in parliament that his government "supports protection of human rights for all people without difference." But it seems he does so with little support from the people.
"I don't approve of violence, but I didn't know how to explain this gathering to my son," Bosko Lukic, a Montenegrin vacationing in the coastal town of Budva, told the AP.
Attackers threw rocks, bottles, glasses and chairs from local cafes—with little effort made to avoid police securing the gathering, who were also hit—but the targeted activists responded to the abuse and calls for death with, "kiss the gays."
In the midst of the downpour of hard objects, police officers intervened, pushing attackers away and allowing the event to endure.
The parade quickly marched along the Adriatic Sea before stopping to hold speeches as extremists shouted insults from a distance, the AP said. Clashes between police and smaller clusters of extremists scattered about the town later continued.
Interior Minister Rasko Konjevic praised the police for preventing more severe conflicts, apart from the minor injuries that were suffered.
"Unfortunately, in 20 years of transition Montenegro has not matured enough to tolerate differences," one of the rally’s organizers, Aleksandar Zekovic, said.
The Balkan country of about 600,000 people is known for its conservatism— including a “macho male culture and respect of traditional values.” But its pro-EU government continues to express support for pride events and has advocated for tolerance among the people.
Some newspapers published mock obituaries for prominent gay activists prior to the parade, while a number of the towns cafes stopped playing music for an hour on Tuesday in protest.
This was the first pride event to take place in Montenegro, whose previous attempts to do so were botched by threats of violence.
"We will not stop, we will not give up, we will organize gay-pride parades in Montenegro, just because of this, of what you can hear them shouting that we should be killed," Zdravko Cimbaljevic, one of the parade's organizers, told Reuters. "We should not be killed, we have to live together, as a people that should live together, and fight together against discrimination and against inequality in our society."