Category Archives: Journal Entry

Budapest Pride – July 10, 2010

It was incredibly hot and sunny for Budapest Pride.  However, that didn’t stop almost 1,000 people turning out for Pride.

While previous marches were held in public view, since the violence of the 2007 and 2008 Budapest Prides, the march now takes place on a closed off section of one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Andrassy Street.  Ahead of the event, organizers were in disputes with police over the length of the Pride.  While last year they were allowed to walk down the entire length of the street, this year they could only go half-way.  The police said due to flooding problems in the South of Hungary, they didn’t have enough gates to block off the whole street.

Budapest Pride Andrassy Street

Andrassy Street before the Pride

Chad and I set off around 9 in the morning to watch the gates being set up (on half of Andrassy).  We also watched them install some video cameras along the Pride route.  Around 11am, police in full riot gear turned out.  I can guess this must have been really unbearable in the July heat, as I was baking in a tee-shirt and jeans.

Budapest Pride Police

Police putting on riot gear to get ready for Budapest Pride 2010

One of the difficulties of having a closed off Pride March is deciding who to let in.  And, unfortunately, a few people who would later cause a minor disruption of the Pride procession were mistakenly let in, as well as three completely wasted individuals that proceeded to give television interviews while falling over drunk (and in general made asses out of themselves).

The march started around 4p, after the arrival of a large decorated float with music blasting from speakers onboard.  About a thousand people, including quite a few heterosexual supporters, marched down Andrassy Street.  I noticed several signs against homophobia, and against fascism.  The event reminded me very much of Romania’s GayFest, as people walked and danced down a big empty street.

Budapest Pride

Everything was going fine and was very festive until 4 right-wingers who had infiltrated the pride took a stand in front of the truck.  Not wanting to run anyone down, whoever was driving the truck decided to stop, and the police rushed out to arrest the skinheads.  However, this did cause a minor disruption to the procession, and organizers decided to turn back the march at that point as it was nearly to the end of the route anyway.

The speeches for this Pride took place before the event, so when the march had returned to the starting point those on the organizing committee began ushering participants into the closed-off metro, where police would escort them to safe exit points away from the event.  This was good in theory, but they chose to use the metro entrance right in front of those demonstrating against the Pride, instead of any of the previous 4 empty stops on the closed off street.

Budapest  metro

As you might guess the right-wing protestors just a metal barrier away from those participating in the Pride march began chanting anti-homophobic slogans.  Pride participants would respond with chants against homophobia and fascism.  While the police outside the gate kept trying to quiet the skin heads and other protestors, the volunteer organizers inside the gated area tried to do the same – encouraging people to be silent and not to provoke the protestors.

The organizers had just fears concerning safety, however this still didn’t go over well as many who had come to participate in Budapest Pride wanted to speak up and demonstrate against homophobia.  The photo below shows one young man trying to hold out his rainbow flag, as organizers link hands and try to push him away from the barricade.

Budapest Pride Rainbow

On September 4th those opposing the pride have promised to hold their own heterosexual march down Andrassy Street.

To view more images check out the WWP: Behind the Photos blog

http://wwpbehindthephotos.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/budapest-pride-july-10-2010/

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Arrived in Budapest, and history of the Pride

On Monday morning we arrived in Hungary, still slightly exhausted from catching an 8a.m. flight into Budapest.  However, we are looking forward to documenting Budapest Pride.

While this year the annual Budapest Pride march will be celebrating its 15th anniversary, the march has also been plagued by escalating levels of violence.  While the first 11 marches only had only minor disruptions, starting in 2007 the events have had more violent protests.  Not only eggs, but also beer cans, smoke bombs, and other trash were thrown at participants.  The ultra-nationalists have also chanted disturbing slogans like, “Queers into the Danube, Jews after them.”  After this pride eleven attacks took place on those who had participated in the Pride.  In 2008 the Police Chief tried to deny the organizers permission to hold the Pride, but this decision was soon reversed.  However, levels of violence increased with Nationalists websites encouraging violence on the LGBT community, and publishing lists of gay hangouts – some of which were later attacked with Molotov cocktails.  During the 2008 pride, bottles, rocks, firecrackers, and gasoline bombs were thrown at the participants.

Starting in 2009 the strategy of isolating the march from public view was put into practice, and this will be the same strategy employed this year.  Unfortunately, already this year Pride organizers have had to face disruptions caused by neo-Nazis.  A dozen showed up on Sunday at the opening of the Pride festival, including two who attacked a participant leaving the event.  Again, like many of the places we’ve visited, the perpetrators of these hateful actions are youths!

Anyway, it should be an eventful time documenting this Pride, and getting to know the community hosting the march.  We are spending the early part of this week attending workshops hosted by the Pride.

To see a full schedule of programs, check out:
http://www.budapestpride.hu/en

Going to London Pride

Leaving Sofia, Bulgaria, we’ve headed to the United Kingdom, so that on Saturday we can attend Pride London.  This Pride is a little different from some of the others we’ve documented as it is so huge.  Last year’s Pride march had 1 million people attending.

While for the smaller Prides we usually spend the week before a Pride getting to know the organizers and documenting the preparations, for this parade we’ve gotten a little beak.  So the past few days we’ve been visiting a friend who lives in Wales.  After documenting 11 prides so far this year, it’s been more than nice to get a few days break.

Doing this project we’ve experienced all kinds of Prides, from  marches just starting out and fighting to be able to publicly share their pride, to those that have become big festive parades.  As you can guess, London Pride is the latter.  While it is easy to sensationalize Prides like this, as outrageous customs are very much the norm, our plan is to focus on portraits.  Doing this, our desire is to keep attention on individuals.  We just hope it doesn’t rain!

For more information on London Pride: http://www.pridelondon.org/

Preparing for Sofia Pride

In just a few days Sofia will have its 3rd Pride march, which means both supporters and protesters of the Pride are getting ready.  There has been a flurry of letter writing on both sides, which has been appearing in the local and international media.  From those opposed, a joint declaration was issued by 25 Bulgarian organizations condemning the Pride, while letters of support and solidarity concerning Sofia Pride have arrived from several foreign Ambassadors and international LGBT groups.

This morning we joined Marko and another LGBT activist at the National Bulgarian radio station as one of the radio programs was going to focus on the upcoming Pride.  A representative from a local family-values group (who looked to be in his early 20s) also arrived at the show to provide the opposing viewpoint.

National Bulgarian Radio

National Bulgarian Radio

This young man, who claimed not to be a homophobe, but instead a “concerned citizen”, came prepared with many “facts” concerning homosexuality, including that those in the LGBT community live 20 years less, 70% have AIDS, and that legalizing prostitution is core on the gay agenda.  He therefore concluded that their choice to be gay was illogical (!) Again, what is admirable about Marko and his friend, as well as many of the activists we’ve met during this trip, instead of getting angry at this idiocy they instead tried to talk reasonably with him.  It didn’t work as it concerned him, but they did present a reasonable counter-argument for the radio program.

When the organizers for the Pride are not being kept busy doing awareness and promotion within the community, they still have a mass of other activities to do to get ready for the Pride.  While we left Marko after the radio show, we met up with more members of the Sofia organizing committee that afternoon as they prepared signs and had a security briefing.

Sofia Pride 2010

Sitting around a laptop, the group of 12-15 volunteers watched footage of the 2008 Pride where Molotov cocktails had been thrown.  Photos of some of the main aggressors against the Pride were passed around, and strategies discussed on how to deal with the opposition.  To add insult to injury, not only do they have to deal with these hateful individuals that wish them harm, but they have to personally pay the city police to protect them from these guys.  This is a serious problem as the cost for the needed police protection (caused by the aggressive protestors) runs in the thousands of Euros!  Not easy for a small Pride.  Already they have been forced to cut the length of the march and afterwards gathering by half, down from 4 hours to only 2 hours, because of the cost for police.

While only days before the main pride event, the group is still raising money to cover some of the necessities.  (see here for more details)

Arriving in Sofia, Bulgaria

On Sunday night we left Zagreb by train headed first to Belgrade, Serbia, and then by connecting train to Sofia, Bulgaria.  Going by train was a change of pace from all the flying we’ve been doing recently, but fifteen hours on a train seemed rather grueling by the end.  Anyway, now we’re in Sofia to document the project’s 11th Pride.  Like most place in Eastern Europe it is not very easy to hold a Pride event here, which makes getting to know the people who do organize these events all the more interesting.

We didn’t have much time to settle into Sofia as about an hour after the train arrived we were due to attend a press briefing to officially start the week of Sofia Pride.  One of the organizers of this year’s pride is Marko, who we’d had a chance to meet during Athens Pride (and the regional solidarity conference held beforehand).  In addition to the press briefing, Marko informed us that they were also opening a photo exhibit that night showing images from past Sofia Prides.

The history of Sofia Pride is still relatively young.  The first Pride took place in 2008 with about 150 participants, but also with strong opposition from local far-right wing groups.  During the event Molotov cocktails were thrown, and 88 protestors were arrested.  The second Pride, 2009, faired better with 300 pro-LGBT participants, support of dozen of foreign embassies, and no violence.  This year will be the third Pride March, and it has the theme of “Love equality, embrace diversity”

Here’s some a video/pics of the past marches:

As you’ll notice in 2009 Pride participants were given hard hats to wear!

Sofia Pride 2009:

Sofia Pride 2008:

Pride Images


Zagreb Pride 2010 – June 19, 2010

Zagreb Pride was energetic and colorful, with over 500 participants in attendance.  While outrageous costumes are not the norm for this pride, there were lots of rainbows and balloons to give the event a festive feel.  The march route started at a large square in town – the “square of the victims of fascism”, and went along city street to Zagreb’s main square (where the anti-Pride march was taking place), before it headed South to end up in a big park – Park Ponosa.

With the sound of beating drums, whistles, and Pride cheers, the march proudly proceeded by watching bystanders toward Zagreb’s main square.  Police in riot gear walked next to participants, forming a moving blockade around the group.  The city had granted permission for members of the youth faction of a right-wing group to protest in the main square.  Made up of around 60 teenagers and young adults, these anger filled youths yelled oaths and obscenities at the marchers.  The police had wanted the march to go on the far South side of the square, behind the kiosks, and far away from the anti-gay protesters.  However, the pride leaders refused and won the right to march proudly in the streets of Zagreb’s main square, instead of the far sidewalk.  While the protesters were kept back by a metal barricade and a human barricade made up of police, there was still a defining moment during the pride when the two sides faced off.

When the Pride first reach the main square it halted, as the parade spread out so participants could look upon the haters.  The marchers chanted and blew whistles, with several raising two fingers to display the peace sign.  Those against the march, and the people in it, raised their fingers in a different gesture, shouted obscenities, and I saw one guy showing his dissatisfaction by unbuttoning his pants to flash marchers.  This whole scene lasted only a few minutes, before the Pride started up again and continued down another block.

At this point some of the protestors tried to follow the Pride by making a dash through the inside of mall, but were stopped by police, with some being arrested.  Caught on tape, there is a footage of one of these homophobic kids telling the police that if he is arrested his mother would kill him at home (a rough translation), at which point he was brutally kicked in the head.  Note: The officials of Zagreb Pride have come out to condemn this action, labeling it as disgusting behavior.

At the fenced off park, the Pride ended with speeches and music.  There was a release in tension as the march had successfully ended.  Unfortunately, it also gave a false sense of security, as the whole thing isn’t really over, especially as the right-wing youths filled with aggression aren’t ready to give up and go home for the night.

At the park I had talked with a Bosnian girl who had grown up in San Francisco, she had left the park to go get some food with two Norwegian guys – tourists that hadn’t know about the Pride before, but had decided to join in.  Later that night when we returned to the artist collective for the after party we saw her again, they had been attacked.  Eleven young guys had jumped them from behind, punching and kicking all three.  That same evening two other local participants of Zagreb Pride were attacked by young thugs who recognized them from the Pride.  It such a shame that such a positive event is marred by violence, and the huge cowardice of these attacks.

However, I’d like to think not of the haters, but the several people I spoke with who were attending this as their first Pride after coming out, and how much participating in this event had really meant to them, and to all those there in support of pride.

Here are some more videos:

Anti – Pride

Pictures coming soon to our main website,
http://www.walkwithpridenow.com

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Making Posters for Zagreb Pride

For the last week Pride participants have been invited to visit the headquarters of Zagreb Pride to get their signs and posters ready for Saturday’s march.  It’s a big open room, but with the distinct smell of spray paint.

Zagreb Pride Signmaking

This year’s theme is freedom of sexual expression.Zagreb Pride Signmaking