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Amid the heavy presence of anti-riot police sporting armored vehicles and water cannons, on September 28th homosexualists staged the first gay pride parade in Belgrade since the events were banned following civil unrest that exploded into violent clashes during an attempted 2010 parade.

Numerous European media reports said that several thousand police officers were on hand to protect the several hundred homosexual activists who marched through deserted Belgrade streets where roads were blocked, stores were closed and public transport was rerouted.

Correspondents said that several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, US ambassador Michael Kirby, and European Parliament member Terry Reintke, attended the march.

While a few Serbian cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Kori Udovicki and Culture Minister Ivan Tasovac, as well as Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali were also present, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic declined to attend, saying he had “better things to do.”

Allowing the parade to be staged this year, despite the enormous cost of police presence, is seen by some as a maneuver by the government to push its agenda for acceptance into the EU.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said the Belgrade homosexual event was “a milestone in the modern history of democratic Serbia” and that the parade marked a “substantial improvement towards the effective exercise of LGBTI rights,” according to an EUObserver report.

However, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, denounced the parade as “immoral” and stated that the event had been “violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from [western] Europe.”

In a statement preceding the parade, Patriarch Irinej challenged the government to justify spending “millions on a fundamentally absurd parade to safeguard a handful of citizens and their guests, marching a few hundred meters in downtown Belgrade” when “the state is on the verge of poverty.”

“You have the right to stage a parade, but only at your own expense and at the expense of those who give you instructions, no matter how you call them… but not at the expense of Serbia – bombed, devastated, morally and economically ruined, impoverished, flooded, publicly shamed,” Patriarch Irinej said.

“Are you so blinded by lust and egotism that you do not mind the enormous and unfounded costs of staging the parade?” the church leader asked.

In an interview with the Serbian newsmagazine Nedeljnik Patriarch Irinej called the gay parade “the tip of the immoral iceberg and a gathering of all perversions and vices.”

“I have pity for these people, who belong to the so-called gay population. This is a disorder or an aberration of human nature… I cannot understand why they are imposing this problem on us and are openly demonstrating it,” he said.

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