This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia.
Yesterday, Serbia hosted its annual Gay Pride parade, as well as the country's first Trans Pride march. Overall, the atmosphere in Belgrade felt far more relaxed than previous years, which seems a like strange thing to say, given that the city was filled with thousands of riot cops, undercover police offices, armored vehicles, water cannons, and helicopters.
While Trans Pride attracted roughly 100 or so people earlier in the day, media estimates for the Gay Pride march vary from 500 all the way up to 2,000 attendees. The only thing that people seem to be able to agree on is that the Serbian gay community represented the day's lowest demographic turnout. Instead, the parade was mostly populated by journalists, local and foreign politicians, absurd amounts of plain-clothes police officers, and activists from abroad, while the Serbians themselves stayed at home.
For safety reasons, participants couldn't come within 500 yards of the march, unless they used one of the official entrances—which were basically police checkpoints—at very specific times. Not far away from the parade route, about a dozen supporters of the fringe Real Serbian Orthodox Church were praying and shouting about how "homosexuality must be punished."
The protesters were held outside the cordon, but following the march were permitted to march along part of Pride's route to, as they say, "consecrate and cleanse" the streets, remove any leftover flags, and then declare a pitiful victory.
Related: Watch VICE News's documentary, 'Young and Gay in Belgrade':
According to media reports, 54 people—including a notorious football hooligan once sentenced for pushing a flare into a police officer's mouth—were preventatively detained for "planning to attack the parade."
The police were able to keep order throughout the day, but, unfortunately, it's an illusion of safety. While the parade went off without a hitch, Serbian homosexuals still live in fear of attacks and oppression every day.
Scroll down for more photographs of the day: