PRAGUE (AFP) — Tens of thousands joined gay pride marches across Europe on Saturday but homophobics spoiled the party in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria where scores were arrested for disrupting events.
Czech security forces were forced to intervene after right-wing extremists moved in on a parade in the country's second city Brno, leading to 15 arrests as tear gas was thrown, police said.
Several dozen black-clad extremists tried to break up a planned two-hour march through the city centre by gays and lesbians. The right-wingers threw eggs and fireworks into the midst of the marchers as they gathered in a central city square, local media reported.
Fifteen people were detained by police and two charged with breaching the peace, police spokeswoman Andrea Prochazkova old AFP.
Around 200 police in riot gear gathered at the start of the march to protect some 500 participants. Following the initial clash, organisers decided to press on with the parade but over a shorter route than initially planned.
The march came to an end when tear gas was thrown at the participants and some of the hundreds of onlookers.
At least 20 people were affected with two people needing medical treatment and one city policeman taken to hospital, police said, adding that it was not clear who threw the tear gas.
In Sofia, Bulgaria's first gay pride march was also marred by several attempts by extremists to disrupt it, resulting in scores of arrests.
According to the interior ministry, some 60 extremists were detained by police after trying to storm the small group of participant which was escorted by a similar number of police as it passed along a central Sofia boulevard.
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.
Marchers blew whistles along the way and wore t-shirts reading "I am not gay but my best friend is" and "It is not necessary to be gay to be here".
"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's dresses but this is not true," he added.
In Germany, tens of thousands took part in the day including 95-year-old Rudolf Brazda, thought to be the last surviving person persecuted by the Nazis for his homosexuality.
Brazda was condemned to six months in prison in 1934 in accordance with a law forbidding sex between men. He was arrested again in 1938 and finally deported to Buchenwald in 1941.
"After the war I had a very happy life. We were no longer forced to hide as before when we were considered abnormal," he said.
"But thank God, today we are free," he added.
Meanwhile, in Paris tens of thousands more turned out for the annual event which took discrimination at school as its theme in France this year.
"At school people used to throw stones at me and insult me," said Jasen, a 15-year-old school pupil, who took part in the march.
Life at one time had been very difficult for him, he said, adding however that attitudes towards him had changed as his fellow students matured.
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