Reflections on Moscow Gay Pride and Why I am Organising a Protest at the London Embassy

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■ Peter Gray outside Moscow City Hall last month when he attended Moscow Pride - his first Pride outside UK.

By Peter Gray

The Russian Constitution, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, grants every Russian the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.  On May 28, 2011, these rights were denied to the LGBT community in Moscow for the sixth year in a row.

In total eighteen Russian activists were arrested and detained by police including Anna Komarova: a queer-gender activist.  Prominent non-Russian human rights activists Dan Choi, Andy Thayer and Louis-Georges Tin were also arrested.

All four British activists who attended, including Peter Tatchell, managed to avoid police attention.  Mr. Tatchell, however, had to escape through narrow alleyways when he was recognised by Neo-Nazi thugs.

Many protesters sustained minor injuries from Neo-Nazi and Russian Orthodox Church anti-gay protesters. Elena Kostyuchenko, a Russian journalist and open lesbian, was hit in the face and hospitalized for more than 5 days.

I was there on the street that day outside Moscow City Hall.  I saw members of our own community attacked by small minded bigots and thugs because the police would not protect them.

I watched with my own eyes as they were dragged off into riot vans and detained because the authorities would not grant them their most basic human rights.

The Russian Authorities did not merely deny these rights for the sixth year running.  This year they did so in direct violation of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights stating that the ban was illegal.

They have created an international incident and the Council of Europe must send a clear message to Russia that it will not be unilaterally overruled.  As a member of the Council of Europe, the UK must stand up and be counted in the fight against these atrocities.

On July 1 at 6pm we will stand together with our friends in Moscow against discrimination, violence and human rights abuse.  We will assemble outside the Russian Embassy to the United Kingdom and rally support for a suspension of the Russian vote on the Council of Europe.

We will display our outrage and disgust at their mistreatment of peaceful citizens. The Inside Out Project has provided several large portraits of activists whose rights were violated on May 28. With these we will show the Russian authorities and the British public just a fraction of the people who these crimes have been committed against. If you are on Facebook, please indicate your attendance on the event page.

We need everybody’s support to make our voice as loud as it can be.

When I went to Moscow Pride this year, it was the first time I had been to a Pride event outside the UK.

I could not stand silent on what I saw.

This is the first time I have ever organised a demonstration of any kind never mind one on such a large scale.  Whether you are a seasoned activist or somebody who has never spoken out before I hope this shows that anybody can make their voice heard. Join me on 1st July and let your voice be counted too.

If you are unable to attend on July 1, the evening before Pride London parade, there is still something you can do.

The Council of Europe is run by a Committee of Ministers, which is in turn advised by a large Parliamentary Assembly.  Many UK MPs sit on this assembly.  They need to know what has happened so that they can hold their Russian colleagues to account and ask the Committee of Ministers to suspend the Russian vote.

Please spare just a few moments to email them and tell them what you think. You can find a template letter already written out here on the Facebook group:

Just copy and paste that into the field of a new email and then copy in the addresses of all the UK Parliamentary Assembly members.  A full list of these has been compiled here for easy copy and paste.

After just one email received from me, Paul Flynn MP has pledged his support for this initiative.  This will make a huge difference, and you can achieve this too.

To take on the issue from all angles, you can also sign a petition at allout.org.  This directly targets President Medvedev of Russia, urging him to condemn the violence of the past six years and legalise Pride once and for all:


Moscow Police Collude With Neo-Nazis at Moscow Gay Pride.  By Peter Tatchell.   We witnessed a high level of fraternisation and collusion between neo-Nazis and the Moscow police.  I saw neo-Nazis leave and re-enter police buses parked on Tverskaya Street by City Hall.  (UK Gay News, May 28, 2011)

May 28: Russia:
Mayhem at Moscow Gay Pride in Pictures   Photo gallery of photographs by Charles Meacham of Walk with Pride Project. (UK Gay News, May 28, 2011)

May 25: Russia:
Moscow Gay Pride - Our Annual Blog   More or less as it happens, the low-down from Moscow Gay Pride.  (UK Gay News, May 25, 2011)






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Posted: 14 June 2011 at 15:00 (UK time)


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