In 2019, Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture. Throughout 2019, only one LGBTI event took place in Plovdiv and it was met with resistance from IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) and BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) city councilors.
On 10.10.2020 we organized a rally entitled Plovdiv against Hate together with Plovdiv locals. The meeting time was 17:30 in front of the City Hall. We began gathering when at 17:40, we were faced with wall of football hooligans dressed in black with hood, masks and glasses on our right. At 17:45, another wall of football hooligans was against us, with their supporters around the fountain. We were not more than 70 people, they were at least 120. At the beginning of the event, there were 8 police officers. Only after the timely interference of Veneta Limberova who called the Director of the Security Police Department, 20 more police officers were sent. This made us calmer, but the feeling of being in a trap with no exit and no good move remained. We could not leave the space in front of City Hall. Police told us we could not go anywhere because it would endanger the life of the participants.
Finally, we did head towards Plovdiv’s City Garden at 18:15, where we all gathered again to speak about rights, hate crime, solidarity, about friendship and love. We did that because the event we had planned in Kapana after the march was cancelled out of fear of vandalization and the police’s inability to protect all of us.
Fear was prevailing. At times we thought we would not come out of this alive… In the end, we walked the first PRIDE kilometer in Plovdiv. This one kilometer will be remembered by all of us for the rest our lives and it will remind us of how brave and strong LGBTI people in Plovdiv are, because they stay in their city, because they may face hate every day but they have laid the foundations of change towards a better life for LGBTI people in Plovdiv.
Photos: Atanas Stas Tarpanov