ST. PETERSBURG, June 26, 2011 (GayRussia/UK Gay News) – After Moscow and Minsk, St. Petersburg was the third city to yesterday host the Slavic Gay Pride – a union of LGBT activist from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Previous marches in 2009 and 2010 were banned and participants were arrested by to police.
But yesterday’s Gay Pride rally which was also the second one in St. Petersburg – a previous attempt last year was banned and lead to five participants being arrest.
A group of 20 LGBT activists from Russia and Belarus showed up for the action. The organisers warned in advance that because the event was banned, it could lead to police arrests and also to attack from skinheads.
Fourteen activists were arrested. They were, unusually, detained for more than 24 hours and spent the night into custody.
They were released this afternoon after a judge fined them between 500 to 1,000 Russian roubles (10.50 – 21 euros).
But they will have to attend a second court hearing in July to answer charges for “disobeying police orders”, though video footage taken by the media shows no evidence of disobedience.
“They charged us with this article in order to keep us in custody for 24 hours,” suggested Nikolai Alekseev, who was arrested for the seventh time while staging gay rights protests in Russia.
The unsanctioned gay rally lasted only a couple of minutes. The signal was given when a boat covered with a rainbow flag passed on the Neva river in front of the Statue to Peter the Great which was the meeting point announced at a press conference a day before.
At 2pm, the activists came out around the Statue and started to unveil banners and flags shooting slogans “No to homophobia” and “Equal Rights”. A poster carried by transgender activist Anna Komarova read “Trans Rights are Human Rights”, another one playing over the rumours that the city governor is alcoholic said “Alcoholism is a disease, homosexuality is not”.
Another group was protesting nearby on the stairs to the Constitutional Court.
“We had two minutes before to be arrested and just before an homophobe ran into us, starting to attack us,” said Mr. Alekseev after the event, and while he was detained in a police van.
A week ago, an anti-gay demonstration was authorised by the city authorities and participants said they would break up any attempt to hold a gay rally in the city.
But not more than a dozen anti-gay protesters showed up to tried to disrupt yesterday’s action. Alexander Sheremetyev, one of the organisers of the Pride, was injured after being attacked.
He was taken to the hospital under police escort and brought back into custody. His attacker was arrested but released shortly after.
Another participant reported that he was beaten while in custody at the police station.
To date, Russia has never sanctioned a gay pride march. However, St. Petersburg authorised the city’s first sanctioned gay rights protest last November, a month after three courts said that the ban of last year’s Gay Pride ban in the city was unlawful.
“We won in court last October and this year our Pride is still banned and I am arrested and fined for taking part in it,” Yuri Gavrikov, the parade chief organizer and director of the local LGBT group Equality, told UK Gay News/GayRussia.
This year’s ‘bashing’ at Moscow Gay Pride on May 28 and yesterday in St. Petersburg took place after a decision of the European Court of Human Rights found that Russia breached the European Convention of Human Rights banning Moscow Gay Pride.
Last week, a group of 39 Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe co-signed a resolution expressing “grave concern at the manifest failure of the Russian Federation to carry out its obligation to respect the European Convention on Human Rights and the damage this is causing to the standing of the Council of Europe”.
The European Parliament, the Council of Europe General Secretary, the US State Department and also the French government have all expressed their public concerns after the problems experienced at Moscow Pride last month.
“This situation is absurd,” commented Mr. Alekseev who was among those arrested in St. Petersburg. “Article 31 of the Russian Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and we are arrested just in front of the Constitutional Court,” he added.
A poll from released earlier this month found that 61% of Russian oppose the conduct of Gay Pride Marches in Russia. A year ago, 82% said that they disapproved.SEE ALSO
Blogging From Slavic Gay Pride in St. Petersburg. Today saw the second attempt by LGBT activists in St. Petersburg to host an annual Gay Pride March. Fourteen gay activists were asrrested as the St. Petersburg authorities defied the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. (UK Gay News, June 25)
Controversy Over Gay Rights In Moscow City Hall? The deputy mayor of Moscow has promised to change the homophobic image of the city in the eyes of foreigners – and he appears in direct contradiction with the Mayor. (UK Gay News, June 23)
St Petersburg Bans Slavic Gay Pride Parade but OKs Anti Gay Rally. City authorities in St. Petersburg have again banned a planned Gay Pride Parade. But they gave the go-ahead for an anti-gay rally in the city which was staged at the weekend. (UK Gay News, June 20)