SEVENTEEN foreign embassies in Slovakia issued a joint statement supporting Bratislava’s Gay Pride in the leadup to Saturday May 22 march.
“Our countries, like Slovakia, are committed to defending basic rights and freedoms and in ensuring equality and dignity for all,” they wrote.
Some of these same foreign officials were on hand Saturday to experience the violent reactions of skinheads and other anti-homosexual protesters.
“My first impulse was disgust with the anti-democratic forces who were bent on preventing others from exercising their rights,” said US chargé d’affaires Keith Eddins. “But I was particularly proud of the participants, who didn’t panic and showed a lot of courage.”
The police in charge of keeping order, including lightly armed municipal officers and national police in riot gear, initially seemed to have underestimated the strength of opposition to the rally. The planned march had to be called off due to the hundreds of skinheads assembled in sidestreets along the planned route, and several tear gas grenades were set off in the crowd.
“I don’t deny having felt a little nervous at that point,” said British Ambassador Michael Roberts. “But I was quite pleased by how quickly both the Pride security and the police dealt with the various incidents.”
Georges Lemieux, head of the Canadian Embassy Office in Bratislava, also praised the response of the Gay Pride organizers under pressure.
“I liked the fact they showed restraint, and that they were careful to praise the police for the protection they were providing,” he said. “They may not have achieved everything they planned, but they set a good precedent for next year.”
Opponents of the rally yelled insults at Gay Pride participants throughout the afternoon, denouncing them as “perverts” and “deviants”.
“What struck me was that the only people engaged in deviant behaviour there were the thugs,” said Eddins.
24. May 2010 at 12:00 | Tom Nicholson