Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry probes homophobic demo at film festival, incident at bar

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry has started an investigation into the disruption of a screening at the Sofia Pride Festival at the Odeon cinema and an incident in which a group carried out a confrontation at a nearby craft beer shop, daily Sega reported on June 14.

On June 11, an aggressive group of people, many wearing t-shirts of the pro-Russian party Vuzrazhdane, prevented the showing of the award-winning film Close, part of the festival being held ahead of the June 17 Sofia Pride. The demonstrators held placards and shouted slogans that were homophobic.

The incident at the bar also involved people wearing the t-shirts of Vuzrazhdane. The Cosmic Craft Beer Shop earlier had put a sign in its window saying that it would not serve people from Vuzrazhdane. In Sunday’s incident, police arrived after being called and the group who had intruded into the bar – including an MP from Vuzrazhdane – left. No arrests were made.

In regard to both incidents, there were criticisms of the conduct of the police, who allegedly shook hands with and saluted the demonstrators when they arrived outside the Odeon cinema.

Sega said that it had been told by the Interior Ministry press centre that the First Police Station was working on the investigation and the materials would be forwarded to the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office.

On the night of June 11, the word “Jude” (German for Jews) and a Star of David were scrawled on the windows of the Cosmic Craft Beer Shop, in symbolism clearly reminiscent of the 1938 November Pogrom (“Kristallnacht”) and that was condemned by the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria.

The Interior Ministry press centre told Sega that those who had reported the vandalisation of the bar had been interviewed and witnesses questioned. No arrests have been made so far.

On May 21, supporters of Vuzrazhdane were involved in a so-called “March for Peace and Neutrality”. Participants pelted the European Parliament and European Commission building in Sofia with red paint. Police did not intervene and no arrests were made.

In an open letter to the public and the media on June 13, a group of attendees said that the incident at the film festival on Sunday had involved representatives and supporters of Vuzrazhdane, VMRO, the Bulgarian National Union, Union of Bulgarian National Legions, the so-called “Youth Against the System” and “Paedophile Hunters”.

The letter said that these people were known to them and were politically connected formations “with an affinity for the banner neo-Nazi Lukov March and/or neo-Bolshevik imperialism”.

It called on the public to join the procession scheduled for June 15 at 6.30pm, entitled “Bulgaria in the EU. Fascism is not patriotism”, the planned route of which is from outside the Presidency building in Dondukov Boulevard to Vuzrazhdane headquarters and on to the National Assembly.

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