Monday, June 6, 2011

Pride and Hate

Yesterday, a few of my fellow interns wanted to meet up, so we went to go check out Rainbow Pride 2011, Bratislava's LGBT Pride march. I had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for years, so I'd been to events like this before, but I was definitely surprised by the different vibe it had compared to say, San Francisco's Pride Parade.

Slovakia is much less secular country than many of its western neighbors, and identities and attitudes that stray from traditional viewpoints can sometimes cause large waves here. This event seemed less of a celebration of identity, and more like an assertion of rights. The speakers at the event announced how people regardless of their personal identity deserved to be a part of Slovak society, a milestone (despite our current controversies over marriage) that I like to think my country already has reached.

The most noticeable presence at the event were the police. According to an article I read later, there were apparently over 500 police officers, and I can vouch that they were there in force. With crowd control armor, shields and dogs, if felt like I was in Little Rock in 1957.

I felt like the police presence was a bit unnecessary until we sat down at a cafe to get a drink after the event began their march across the city's main bridge. Sipping on our Kofolas and beers, we heard a crowd of men, yelling something in unison. It was a strange, harsh sound. I didn't get a peek because they were around the corner from the cafe, but these were apparently Slovak nationalist protesters. Slovaks I know here refer to them as Nazis. They were counter-protesting the Pride event and were the reason for the huge police presence.

I guess things went well, but it's definitely weird to experience that kind of intolerance that close up (and it wasn't even directed at me). I'm not really sure what lesson I learned from all of this, but Bratislava has so far very much proven that it isn't boring.