Thousands of marchers celebrating Gay Pride in Athens on Saturday paid tribute to a gay activist who was beaten to death last year. Marchers scattered glitter and confetti at the spot where he was killed and posted signs that “your normalcy smells of blood.”
Several thousand people turned out for the 15th annual march, which was dedicated to the memory of Zacharias Kostopoulos, also known by his drag stage name Zackie Oh.
Kostopoulos was an active member of the local gay community and also campaigned for the rights of HIV-positive people in Greece.
The 33-year-old was violently murdered on September 21 after being kicked by the owner of a jewelry shop and a passer-by. Video footage posted online showed Kostopoulos trying to run away before collapsing and being handcuffed by police. He was declared dead at a local hospital.
Four police officers, the owner of the jewelry shop and a second person have all been charged with inflicting “fatal body injuries”.
The route of Saturday’s march passed the shop where Kostopoulos was attacked.
A few people scattered glitter and confetti at the spot, while someone wrote “Murderers” in pink paint on the pavement in front of the jewelry shop.
The march ended in the capital’s Syntagma Square, which filled up with rainbow flags, where government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos addressed the crowd and where later in the evening, the side of the building was lit with the rainbow flag, which represents the LGBT community.
“This year, the community tries to heal its wounds caused by the vicious murder of Zach and calls for the punishment of his assassins,” he said.
Pop singer Eleni Foureira sang her hit song “Fuego” and shared her own well-wishes in person, as well as via a Tweet earlier in the week, wishing everyone a Happy Pride Month.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras posted his support for Athens Pride with a statement on Facebook: “Every human being is entitled to all rights and freedoms, without any discrimination whatsoever.”
Police estimated that almost 10,000 people turned out for the event.
Homophobic attacks are not rare in Greece where the powerful Greek Orthodox Church asserts significant influence, despite facing its own gay scandals amongst clergy and bishops which make the news often.
The civil unions of same-sex couples was only approved by the Greek parliament in 2015.