(AFP) – Jun 28, 2008
SOFIA (AFP) — Bulgarian police arrested 60 people Saturday opposed to Bulgaria's first gay pride march after they tried to storm the small group of about 100 marchers in the capital Sofia, the interior ministry said.
Security concerns had already forced organisers and municipal authorities to change the route of the march twice and deploy a large number of police to prevent clashes.
Nationalist Union leader, Boyan Rasate, who urged people to stage an "open resistance" to the gay parade, was also detained, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.
The marchers blew whistles along the way and wore t-shirts saying, "I am not gay. But my best friend is" and "It is not necessary to be gay to be here."
They also carried a huge rainbow flag and another one that called for "solidarity against homophobia."
"Bulgaria is in the EU now. People have to accept us like normal human beings. We are not criminals," 51-year-old German engineer Peter Moews who lives in Sofia told AFP.
"Hostility comes from misunderstanding. Most people think that we are all feminine and wear women dresses but this is not true," he added.
The march also drew fierce opposition from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church which called on municipal authorities this week to ban the event, calling it "a scandalous and wicked gathering."
Bulgaria's Grand Mufti also issued a special statement denouncing homosexuality.
Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev said Friday that he "accepts people with different sexual orientation but does not quite approve of the demonstrations of such an orientation."
Gays and lesbians in Bulgaria have faced widespread hostility ever since the communist era although there were no discriminatory laws or practices against them.
Amnesty International came out with a statement Friday, saying that it was concerned about hostility ahead of the march and urging law enforcement officials to ensure adequate protection of the participants.
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