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The ALDE Group in the European Parliament is particularly concerned about increasing anti - LGBTI hate speech by some politicians in Bulgaria, amid signs that marchers taking part in the annual Pride march in Sofia this Saturday (10th June) could come under attack from far - right activists.
A far- right group called the National Resistance has registered a counter-demonstration at the same location where Sofia Pride intends to gather on Saturday and called on its supporters to "cleanse Sofia from garbage". In the past, Sofia Pride marchers have faced hateful rhetoric and violence and limited police protection. Five years ago, an Orthodox priest called for participants in the annual Pride march in Sofia to be stoned. The newly appointed Sofia regional governor, far-right MP Ilian Todorov, is notorious for his hate speech against the LGBTI community.
Sophie in 't Veld, Vice-President of the ALDE Group and Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament, who has just returned from supporting the Pride march in Warsaw, said:
"Bulgarian authorities have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of those participating in the Sofia Pride - freedom of assembly is an essential democratic right and authorities have an absolute duty to protect freedom of speech and assembly. Bulgaria must be a modern, open, inclusive society where all citizens are equal, where all can freely and safely be themselves. Pride Parades can be held safely now almost everywhere in Europe. Do the authorities really want Sofia to become known as the most homophobic city in Europe?
"The Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, should publicly reaffirm her commitment to protecting marchers in advance of Saturday's event. Bulgaria's 2004 Protection against Discrimination Act prohibits all direct or indirect discrimination on many grounds – including sexual orientation."
"The nationalist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, authoritarian agenda pushed by some political parties in Bulgaria should be confronted, because intolerance and hatred have no place in our European Union."