Around 500 gay, lesbian and bisexual rights activists took to the streets of the Moravian city of Brno on Saturday for the Czech Republic’s first-ever gay march going under the name of Queer Parade. The event started at Brno’s central Náměstí Svobody square where the activists and several thousand on-lookers gathered for a concert. An hour later, the Queer Parade got underway in the city centre. But, despite a police presence, the organizers were forced to take a shorter route due to threats by neo-Nazis and other extremist groups who tried to block the march and even attacked its participants with tear gas.
Jolana Navrátilová, one of the Queer Parade organizers, is a Brno-based gay and lesbian advocate and a member of the Holky v Brně, or Girls in Brno, group. I asked her how severe the clashes with anti-gay protesters were.
“Generally, it wasn’t so bad. But they attacked several people; they had chosen their victims beforehand. They didn’t attack everybody but picked people from the Green movement, gay skins and others. The actual clashes were short but to us, they seemed really long. But generally they just disturbed the pride event.”
The police arrested 15 extremists and two of them were charged with public disturbance. While the police have been criticized for allowing the neo-Nazis to get near the Queer Parade participants, police president Oldřich Martinů told Czech TV on Sunday that they did a good job.“The police did not in any way underestimate the security situation. We deployed 450 police officers in the streets to maintain law and order. The incidents that happened were just individual excesses which we soon got under control. There were around 150 extremists whom we managed to separate from the march. If it hadn’t been for what the police forces did, it could have turned out much worse.”
Despite the clashes with anti-gay protesters, the organizers consider the first Czech gay pride parade a success. Jolana Navrátilová again.“I think it was a big success. People kept coming to us, thanking us for organizing this pride parade, for the first time ever in Brno. There was a great atmosphere and we think we succeeded. The general attitude in the Czech Republic is quite favourable towards gays, lesbians and bisexual people. All the polls suggest that about 70 percent of the public support registered partnerships and increasingly also the idea of gay couples being able to adopt children. The Czech public is generally tolerant and respectful. Only the extremists, of whom there might be hundreds or thousands in the Czech Republic and who are unfortunately very visible, are the intolerant minority.”