EuroPride organisers in Belgrade have announced they will march on Saturday despite the event being officially banned, even if the route will be much shorter than originally planned.
The event had been intended as the cornerstone event of the EuroPride gathering.
But police banned the march earlier this week citing security concerns after right wing groups threatened to hold a counter-protest.
“We have been brought to a situation where we have no choice,” Goran Miletic, one of Belgrade Pride organisers told reporters on Friday. “Despite the ban, we will gather.”
Organisers said they were willing to compromise by proposing a significantly shorter route than usual, but Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has said he is determined the ban should be upheld.
The Balkan country, a candidate for EU membership, is under intense international pressure to allow the march. More than twenty embassies — including the US, France and Britain — have issued a joint statement urging the authorities to lift the ban.
“We hope that a solution will be found before Saturday … that will allow a EuroPride march to take place safely, legally and peacefully,” it said.
The ban has also triggered dismay in Brussels, and at least 15 members of the European Parliament have announced they will join Saturday’s Pride march in a show of solidarity.
Although the interior ministry also banned the right-wing counter-protests that had been announced, many social media users have nevertheless called for a gathering.
Gay marriage is not legally recognised in Serbia, where homophobia remains deep-seated despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.
Violence and rioting marred Belgrade Pride marches in 2001 and again in 2010 after far-right groups targeted the events.
Since 2014, the parade has been organised regularly without any notable unrest, but under heavy protection from law enforcement.
EuroPride is a pan-European LGBT gathering held in a different country every year, and Belgrade became the first city outside European Economic Area to host the event.