Saturday, June 28, 2003

Pink Farce

Last year Račan's SDP saw Zagreb Gay Pride parade as an excellent opportunity to present Croatia as "enlightened European country" (unlike Serbia where similar event in 2001 had ended in street violence) and to present itself as "progressive" party unlike ultra-conservative HDZ. The event was attended by numerous state officials, including minister of interiors Šime Lučin (Sime Lucin), and heavily promoted in government media. All that backfired due to several thousands skinheads, soccer hooligans and similar creatures outnumbering parade participants (and accompanying police) and causing havoc on the Zagreb streets.

This year, Račan realised that the ultra-conservatives within his own governing coalition – mainly those belonging to HSS – and not so "enlightened" and "progressive" electorate in rural areas is much more valuable than few dozen gay votes in Zagreb in other big Croatian cities. So, this year's Gay Pride parade was very low-key affair; not a single politician attended and some 200 participants (only fraction of them actually from Zagreb) were accompanied by 150 private security personnel and probably hundreds of riot police. All this security was unneeded – skinheads again showed up, but in significantly smaller numbers and expressing their dislike of gays solely with verbal abuse.

The event was barely covered in evening news shows and that reflected its importance. Only few days earlier Sabor has passed Same Sex Unions Act, thus depriving Parade organisers of any major grievance that they could use as political ammunition.


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