As the tear gas filled our eyes at Gay Pride Bratislava on Saturday, causing
my two-year-old daughter to shriek with pain and fear, my first thought was
- where are the police? How can this be happening?
Every country has its bald-headed primitives who need little excuse to put
on their boots and go "kick some ass". But it's not often you see a police
escort less prepared for violence, or less willing to deal with it once it
erupts. After all, this was the first ever gay parade in conservative
Slovakia, where neo-Nazi websites have been calling on skinheads for months to
"come and kick some gay butts and express your disagreement with this
disease that is killing our race and our nation!" So what where the police
expecting? Courteous disagreement?
Already as we were approaching the rally, with my wife and 11-year-old son,
you could sense trouble. The streets were full of shifty-eyed "protectors of
the traditional family" with their black bomber jackets and clenched fists.
What they were not full of was police in riot gear. A few dozen
disinterested city cops stood around in groups, their body language
indicating they sympathized more with the skinheads than with the colourful
As the first speakers took the stage, disruptions began on the north side of
Hviezdoslav Square, where there were no police. Men who had mingled with the
crowd began shouting insults. A few minutes later they dropped the first of
perhaps five tear-gas canisters and casually walked away. Still no police.
Finally, as people began to run, a trio of riot police walked over
nonchalantly, as if responding to a complaint about noisy teenagers.
Meanwhile, the organizers cancelled the planned parade, saying that in
addition to the hundred morons chanting threats behind the stage there were
hundreds more waiting and planning violence in side streets.
This was hardly a failure of intelligence. Both the police and the secret
services have special units that monitor extremist groups, and the skinheads
made no secret of their intentions. No - this was a depressing reminder that
the Slovak police identify with far-right hooligans, and that they are not
yet professional enough to robustly protect the right of all Slovaks - even
pinko liberals and faggots - to assemble peacefully.
But the police would never have dared to neglect their duty if they didn't
feel support from the political establishment. Bratislava City Hall may have
grudgingly authorized Gay Pride, but its scant concern for the
demonstrators' security bears the disapproving stamp of Mayor Andrej
Ďurkovský's Christian Democrats. The anti-gay demonstration organized by the
church a week before Gay Pride was another important clue to the feelings of
the silent Slovak majority.
That Saturday demonstration was called because homosexuals live in constant
fear of violence and discrimination if they make their orientation public.
It was attended by hundreds of heterosexual couples and families who wanted
to support their gay fellow citizens in their struggle against intolerance
and primitivism. Not to mention the scores of tourists and pedestrians who
simply stopped by to see what was going on.
What shocked us all was not the handful of hateful bigots on hand, but the
collective indifference of "normal" Slovaks to this hatred, so eloquently
expressed in the reluctance of our protectors. In a country that has sent
thousands of its minorities to gas chambers within living memory, how can
people be still so ignorant of the dangers of intolerance?
23. May 2010 at 9:40 | Tom Nicholson