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Serbian protest targets gay pride march

Riot police in the Serbian capital Belgrade fought running battles with hundreds of far-right supporters who tried to disrupt a gay pride march.
Riot police gather as a gay pride parade moves along a street in Belgrade on Sunday. (Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press)

Riot police in the Serbian capital Belgrade fought running battles with hundreds of far-right supporters who tried to disrupt a gay pride march on Sunday.

Several dozen people were hurt, officials said.

The rioters also hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party, setting the garage of the building on fire.

Thousands of police officers sealed off the streets in the capital where the march took place, repeatedly clashing at several locations with rioters who were trying to burst through security cordons.

The protesters, chanting "Death to homosexuals," hurled bricks, stones, glass bottles and firecrackers at riot police.

Protesters smash windows, attack police car

Several parked cars and shop windows were damaged and at least one police vehicle was set on fire.

Police fired tear gas and deployed armoured vehicles to disperse the charging protesters in the heart of Belgrade even after the brief pride march ended.

Hospital officials said at least 46 people, most of them police officers, were injured. Police said several rioters were arrested.

Right-wing groups say the gay events are contrary to Serbian family and religious values. Most of the rioters Sunday were young football fans whose groups have been infiltrated by neo-Nazi and other extremist organizations.

Sunday's march was viewed as a major test for Serbia's government, which has launched pro-Western reforms and pledged to protect human rights as it seeks European Union membership.

Right-wing groups broke up a pride march in 2001 and forced the cancellation of last year's event.

Riot police protect activists in Belgrade park

Vincent Degert, the head of the EU mission in Serbia, addressed around 1,000 gay activists and their supporters who gathered at a downtown Belgrade park, which was surrounded by riot police, including armoured vehicles.

"I am confident that the authorities have taken a very clear orientation. President [Boris] Tadic was very clear on this issue and I believe that we are moving in the right direction," he said.

The brief 15-minute march ended without violence, with the participants heading into a downtown hall for a party.

Some chanted, "We have succeeded."

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