BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – About 2,000 people took to the streets of Croatia's capital, Zagreb, for a gay rights march, accompanied by a significant police presence, on June 16, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
Local media estimate that up to 4,000 people participated in the march, which started off in a city-centre square and concluded with an open-air concert.
There were some 400 police officers on hand separating onlookers from the rainbow flag-waving marchers, who bore signs that read "Hatred Is Not a Family Value" and other messages asserting queer rights, as they called upon the government to demonstrate increased support for same-sex couples.
Croatia's foreign minister, Vesna Pusic, joined the marchers for the parade, the 11th time that Zagreb has staged the event. A week before, Pusic, along with four other government ministers, participated in the Pride parade in Split, Croatia's second-largest city, located on the Adriatic coast. More than 500 took part in the event.
A statement from Pusic's ministry stated that the presence of the ministers in the parade indicated the government's support of equality, that it is against violence and that it is intent on protecting the rights of all minorities.
The Split parade's peaceful conclusion was in stark contrast to the violence in 2011, which left about a dozen people injured. AFP reported that this year's parade was monitored by the European Union, which Croatia hopes to join in 2013.
After Croatia's first Pride parade, in 2002 in Zagreb, was marred by violence, successive events have been staged under heavy security.
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