IT WAS SUPPOSED to be the first gay pride parade ever organised in Slovakia to support the empowerment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. But the parade planned for downtown Bratislava was cancelled after neo-Nazi groups attacked the march on May 22. The organizers explained that Slovakia’s police were unable to secure the safety of those attending.

Members of the neo-Nazi group Slovenská Pospolitosť attacked the participants at a pre-parade rally for LGBT rights. A tear gas canister thrown by one of the approximately 80 neo-Nazis interrupted the rally, attended by 500 people, while the extremists also were throwing eggs at the participants, the Sme daily reported.

Two rally participants who were carrying a rainbow flag, the symbol of the parade, were attacked by the neo-Nazis at Hviezdoslav Square in Bratislava. They attacked the flag barriers with their fists in the face, the SITA newswire reported.

The rally and parade had been announced long in advance and observers said that the police had enough time to prepare for the security and safety of the parade participants.

“Instead of the parade of pride, Slovakia has experienced a day of shame,” wrote Sme’s deputy editor-in-chief Lukáš Fila in his commentary suggesting that the attack by the neo-Nazis against the participants shows a failure by the state.

Fila states that if the state was unable to secure order at an event which had been announced months in advance and about which all media had been reporting and to which foreign diplomats had confirmed their presence, then in what other areas are the police incapable of securing public order?

The event was intended to remind society of how diverse and colourful humankind is – hence the rainbow has become the symbol of gay parades all around the world. In Slovakia, Rainbow Pride was organised by the Queer Leaders’ Forum civic association, an informal group named Queers, and other civic groups.

The organizers expressed regret that the police were unable to secure the planned path of the parade.

The history of gay pride marches goes back to the Stonewall riots of 1969 when gay people in New York protested against raids made by police on local gay bars. Since then, a parade in New York to commemorate those events has taken place every year – and the tradition of gay pride parades has spread around the world.

The organisers of Bratislava’s Pride event had said they hoped that the rally and parade would provide space not only for people with different sexual orientations, but also for all others who appreciate the values of an open society and support the concept of universal human rights.