While participants in a Pride Week event were verbally threatened and physically attacked in Macedonia's capital city, Skopje, over the weekend, queer activists who postponed Sofia, Bulgaria's, sixth Pride march were also attacked as they participated in ongoing anti-corruption protests across the country.
Gay Star News (GSN) reports that a group of about 30 young people made threats, shouted slurs and threw stones, bottles and bricks at the LGBT support centre June 22 in Skopje, where around 40 had gathered for a screening of short films and a discussion about the health rights of transgender people. Attendees escaped unharmed, but a police officer was reportedly injured and taken to hospital after he tried to chase away the attackers, the report notes.
GSN quotes Skopje Pride organizer Bekim Asani as saying that the films were already underway when attendees heard the noise of objects hitting the building, breaking glass and verbal abuse. Asani said that participants were "shocked and scared" and didn't know how to react. He said they observed police trying to disperse the crowd and saw one of them injured.
"I think this incident highlights the difficult situation for LGBT people in Macedonia and the whole issue of safety and anti-gay publicity, which we have been consistently suffering from," Asani told GSN. "We took the decision not to march this year but do indoor events as we are very concerned about safety and security, as previous Pride events were met with violent attacks that left some members of the LGBT community wounded."
Asani added, "We received hundreds of threats also on our Facebook page, stating “death to fags,” “you’re all going to die” and so on."
Earlier in the day, a group of teenagers staged a protest against the Pride celebrations and reportedly attacked a man, described as a "random passerby," in Skopje.
Meanwhile, queer activists who were participating in anti-corruption demonstrations that had been going on for more than a week first had their signs taken away and vandalized, then were harassed by several people, including the spokeswoman of the Association of Bulgarian Football Fans, Elena Vatashka, Pink News reports. Vatashka reportedly grabbed one of the protester's signs and destroyed it. The protester was allegedly attacked by several football fans after trying to get back the sign. Police, who had earlier asked the activists to leave the protest because they were "provoking people with their signs," did not intervene to protect the protester, the report notes.
Even though Sofia's Pride march was postponed by organizers in agreement with the municipality, an anti-Pride march did proceed, drawing about 50 people who said they supported the "Christian family" and opposed so-called propaganda of homosexuality, language that mirrors that of Russia's nationwide anti-gay bill, as well as that in the anti-gay gag laws now on the books in other Russian cities and regions.
A week prior, a number of people, described as "football hooligans," reportedly attacked a gay film festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, breaking projection equipment, calling the screening they barged in on a "faggot film" and shouting anti-gay slurs.