Police violence marks country's first 'gay pride' march

Police in Montenegro clashed Sunday with hundreds of protestors who hurled stones and firecrackers at participants in the first Gay Pride march to be held in the staunchly conservative country's capital.

Officers used tear gas and clubs against protestors at the march in Podgorica, the capital of the Balkan country seeking to join the European Union, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Dozens were detained and a hospital said 18 policemen were injured, one seriously.

Sexual minorities still face discrimination in the tiny former Yugoslav republic with 650,000 inhabitants.

Surveys show 70 percent of Montenegrins still consider homosexuality an illness, while 80 percent believe it should be kept private.

"As of today the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is no longer invisible in Montenegro, but we will continue the fight for our rights," one of the organisers Danijel Kalezic told marchers who waved rainbow flags and carried banners demanding "Same rights for everyone."

The Montenegrin government had backed the event and the Minister of Human and Minority Rights Suad Numanovic was present.

Montenegro's first ever Gay Pride march was held in the coastal town of Budva in July, and was also marred by violence.