Bulgaria: Far-right demonstrators block screening at Sofia Pride Film Fest

Demonstrators, several wearing t-shirts with the logo of the pro-Kremlin party Vuzrazhdane, prevented the screening of a film that is part of the programme of the Sofia Pride Film Fest.

The group gathered outside the Odeon cinema in Bulgaria’s capital city on the evening of June 10, shouting slogans and holding up placards against, among other things, “paedophilia” and the “LGBT virus”.

According to eyewitnesses, they barged into the cinema, behaving aggressively, taking close-up shots of the faces of those present and shouting “paedophiles” at them. Allegedly, police did not prevent them entering the auditorium.

Ahead of the incident, Sofia Pride Film Fest had warned those who intended attending the screening of the film, Close, that they should be extremely careful and move in groups, before and after the screening. The film festival organisers said that tickets would be free of charge to prevent crowding, security had been arranged and police contacted.

“We remind you that this is a film that has had more than 10 screenings in Bulgaria, but is currently targeted by far-right extremist groups because it is part of Sofia Pride Film Fest,” the organisers of the festival said.

Sofia Pride said on its Facebook page: “Obstructing a screening of a film with violence and aggression is not a form of legal protest. The inaction of the police in this case is even more alarming.

“Let us not be deceived by the purposes of such provocations,” Sofia Pride said, saying that the purpose was to instill fear in the LGBTQ community.

“This fascism has no place in a democratic EU member state. Even if you don’t support Sofia Pride, now is the time to attend the procession next Saturday, June 17,” Sofia Pride said.

Human rights activist Radoslav Stoyanov of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said on Facebook: “Police were on the scene to ensure the peaceful and peaceful holding of Sofia Pride Film Fest . Instead, they shook hands and saluted protesters, including those wearing Vuzrazhdane shirts”.

Vuzrazhdane’s youth wing said on Facebook that it “and our collaborators from the Sofia structure and various civil organisations opposed the spread of LGBT propaganda among children by blocking the entrance to the Odeon cinema and stopping the screening of the movie”.

Meanwhile, a group of people, also wearing t-shirts saying “Vuzrazhdane”, entered a craft beer shop on Graf Ignatiev Street, near the cinema. The Cosmic Craft Beer shop has been popular on social media after it put a sign in its window saying that it would not serve people from Vuzrazhdane.

“Late afternoon we had a visit from a dozen men in aggressive mood from Vuzrazhdane, led by MP Slavcho Angelov Krumov,” the craft beer shop said on its Facebook page, saying that the men had blocked the entrance to the shop and not let anyone in or out.

Photo: Bebo Halvadjian, via Facebook

“They broke up after the quick reaction of people from the neighbourhood and police. Happily, there were no victims or material damage. We would appreciate if anyone has photos or videos of the event to send them to us, they would be useful,” said the shop, which expressed thanks for the huge wave of support that it had received.

Regarding the sign, the shop said that it had intended taking it down, but after the June 10 incident “as well as multiple threats sent through all possible channels, we decided to let it stay for a while.

“We have no intention of allowing ourselves to be intimidated and pressured. We believe that we live in a law-abiding country where everyone has the right to express their views without the fear of repression and their business ruined,” the Cosmic Craft Beer shop said.

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