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Hundreds of gay activists made their way through downtown Belgrade for gay pride in a peaceful march under the protection of Serbian riot police.

Shops were closed and public transport stopped for the march, which could only advance a few hundred meters. Police were armed with water cannons and armoured vehicles amid the threat of attacks from extreme nationalists. While no members of the march itself were hurt, several small groups of extremists clashed with members of the police and an attack on the liberal B-92 radio was reported.

While Serbia is a highly conservative country, it has used the Pride March as a chance to show world leaders that Belgrade is a capital “where all of its citizens are equal” as it seeks entry to the European Union.

“This is a very positive and strong message,” Michael Davenport, head of the EU mission in Serbia, told the pride rally. “It is also a strong message to those using the hate language.”

Later in the day, thousands of far-right supporters marched through downtown Belgrade in what was called a “spiritual cleansing” of the capital after the pride event by its organisers.

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