The first-ever pride march in Podgorica, Montenegro ended in tear gas and a dozen arrests as police tried to detain violent counter-protestors armed with Molotov cocktails.
Organizers of the march had kept the location secret until late Saturday night, BuzzFeed reports, so anti-gay demonstrators would not be waiting at the entrance to the march. An email from organizers also advised attendees to come to the event wearing discrete clothing, and contained information on self-defense in case of an assault.
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As the march began, an explosion sounded in the distance — the first hint of the chaos unfolding outside. As government officials and foreign dignitaries addressed the LGBT rights activists, groups of dozens of young men were throwing stones at police and trying to breach the security perimeter. According to one police officer at the scene, police had requested permission to use their firearms to subdue the counter-protestors, but they ultimately regained control of the city streets with the use of teargas, riot shields, and billy clubs. Twenty officers were reported injured.
Despite the violence on the perimeter, Queer Montenegro’s Kalezić pronounced the march “a really successful event.” Although the violence outside reinforced how embattled the LGBT population is in Montenegro, the mere fact that it took place shows “we will not give up,” Kalezić said as he packed up parade posters.
During his speech to the rally, Kalezić announced that plans were already underway for the city’s next pride march to be held next June.
March participants expressed gratitude to the police and to Montenegro’s minister of human and minority rights, Suad Numanović, who also attended the march. No government officials attended a June march in Boudva.
“In Boudva, the message was … this is the Montenegro which does not support LGBT people,” Ljiljiana Reicević, a march participant who also attended the Boudva pride march, told BuzzFeed. “But Podgorica is totally different. It proves that the government is stating, ‘No, We will not allow this [violence], we will stop this, and we will protect you.’”