The first-ever Prague Pride gay festival kicked off in the Czech capital Wednesday amid a spat between the Czech president and 13 ambassadors over support from local authorities for the event.The five-day festival, crowned by a pride parade expected to draw 7,000 participants on Saturday, sparked controversy long before it started as a top aide to conservative President Vaclav Klaus labelled gays as deviants last week.Petr Hajek, Klaus's deputy chancellor famous for rejecting Darwinism and for calling Osama bin Laden "media fiction," slammed the Prague mayor for granting support to the festival of "deviant fellow citizens."Klaus then backed Hajek, saying the parade was a manifestation of "homosexualism," not homosexuality, and that he perceived "deviant" as a "neutral word in terms of value."
This prompted a joint statement from the ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, who voiced support for the festival.Klaus termed the statement an "unprecedented step", while foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg called the spat "unfortunate.""It is counter-productive and unnecessary to express support for rights which no one in the Czech Republic denies," he said in a statement.The festival will offer about 80 events at over 30 locations in and near Prague, including concerts, films, seminars, exhibitions and parties.
In 2008, in the Czech Republic's second city Brno, a pride parade was marred by right-wing extremists throwing eggs and fireworks into the midst of the marchers as they gathered in a central city square.The Czech far-right party DSSS has said it will hold a protest rally against the festival on Saturday. Young Christian Democrats and an anti-abortion movement have also announced rallies.