Thousands of Gays, Lesbians Join Pride Marches in Central Europe

Posted June 18th, 2011 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Thousands of gays and lesbians marched in several Central European capitals Saturday as part of annual Gay Pride parades calling for equal rights and an end to discrimination.

Croatian police say about 2,000 people participated in the 10th Gay Pride march in the capital, Zagreb, protected by hundreds of officers who detained 17 people for insulting the marchers. The event was otherwise peaceful.

A week earlier, thousands of Croatian conservatives disrupted the first gay pride parade in the coastal city of Split, many of them throwing stones, bottles and firecrackers at the 200 participants. Authorities arrested more than 100 people for attacking the marchers, some of whom were injured.

Croatia is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation in which many religious conservatives oppose gay pride parades. But, Zagreb has pledged to protect human rights as part of its efforts to join the European Union. The European Commission has agreed in principle to admit Croatia as a member in 2013.

Elsewhere, hundreds of gays and lesbians joined parades in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia and the Hungarian capital, Budapest, with hundreds of police deployed to prevent unrest. Both marches also passed peacefully. Participants said they also face hostility from their conservative-dominated societies.

Saturday's biggest Gay Pride parade was in the Austrian capital, Vienna, where tens of thousands of people joined a colorful procession to city hall to protest discrimination and celebrate their identity.