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St. Petersburg Times 2006/05/30
Gay March Marred by Violent Protestors
By Anastasiya Lebedev
MOSCOW — Activists attempting to hold Moscow’s first-ever gay rights march Saturday were overwhelmed by militant Orthodox Christians and ultranationalists throwing smoke bombs.
A handful of activists were injured, including a German lawmaker. The Bundestag member, his face streaked with blood, was detained by police.
Pedestrian movement was blocked for a few hours as riot police cordoned off a square around a monument to Prince Yury Dolgoruky. And traffic was briefly stopped when smoke bombs — resembling flares and emitting large plumes of smoke — were thrown at the intersection across the street, across from the Kremlin.
More than 100 gay rights activists and some of their most vocal foes were arrested by police. Mayor Yury Luzhkov had banned the parade, and on Friday a city court upheld the ban.
Among the first to be arrested were Nikolai Alexeyev, the march’s chief organizer, and Philippe Lasnier, an aide to the mayor of Paris. Alexeyev spent the day in custody; Lasnier was briefly detained.
Alexeyev said Sunday that the event had been a great success, despite the low turnout. “A hundred people were not afraid to go out and protest homophobia and fascism,” he said.
One French observer at Saturday’s event said police had detained the German lawmaker, Green Party member Volker Beck, to prevent him from being further pummeled.
Several hundred ultranationalists descended on central Moscow to protest the march. Some of them wore camouflage. Others sported facemasks or hid their faces in their shirt collars.
Organizers had hoped the parade would be the capstone of a two-day conference bringing together gays and lesbians from Russia, Europe and the United States.
The conference, called Moscow Pride ‘06, was described as disorganized by gay web sites not affiliated with the event, which included a lecture given by Merlin Holland, grandson of Oscar Wilde.
The British author, widely known to have been gay, was convicted of gross indecency in 1895 and sentenced to two years of hard labor.
Organizers of Saturday’s march had called for gays and lesbians to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and then gather at the monument to Prince Yury Dolgoruky, which faces City Hall, to picket the ban. The time and place of the march were announced just hours before the event.
But police blocked the entrance to the Alexander Gardens, where the tomb is located.
When the marchers arrived at the gated entranceway to the garden, they were met by women holding icons and wearing long skirts and headscarves. A small group of men in Cossack dress was on hand to protest the march, among others.
As the activists laid their flowers at the gate, protesters stomped on them and threw eggs and tomatoes at the activists. And as the protesters’ chants — “Death to fags!” and “Fags out of Russia!” — grew louder, and as the tenor of the confrontation grew uglier, OMON riot police formed a chain to pry the crowd away from the gate.
The icon-bearing women added to the chorus, chanting “Moscow is not Sodom.” Many sang psalms, mostly from the traditional Easter service.
One woman protesting the march accused police officers who were attempting to contain the mob of siding with homosexuals, prompting one officer to point to the cross around his neck.
Conference participants, most of them foreigners, observed the goings-on with concern and confusion.
A couple stood under rainbow-colored umbrellas. The six-color rainbow is an international gay and lesbian symbol that apparently was not recognized by protesters, who did not attack people holding the umbrellas.
After the confrontation at the entrance to the Alexander Gardens, some parade organizers began moving toward the monument. The parade’s protesters walked in that direction, too.
The steps of the monument had been occupied by a large swarm of ultranationalists, including Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigrants, and Konstantin Krylov, head of the Russian Public Movement.
State Duma Deputy Nikolai Kuryanovich, of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, in a speech at the foot of the monument lashed out at the “gay mafia” for promoting ideals he called suited for “rotting America and dying Europe.”
Kuryanovich also recalled that homosexuality was once a crime in Russia and defended the neo-Nazi salute. He then led the crowd in a chant of “Gays and lesbians to Kolyma,” the notorious Soviet-era labor camp.
Riot police tried to block more people from gathering near the monument but did not make an attempt to interrupt Kuryanovich’s speech.
Kuryanovich’s web site offers condolences to the family and friends of Dmitry Borovikov, a founder of a violent extremist group killed by police in St. Petersburg earlier this month while resisting arrest.
A few gay rights activists eventually arrived at the monument but were unable to hold their rally.
Yevgenia Debryanskaya, a leader of the lesbian rights movement in Russia since the 1990s, tried to give a speech but was doused with water as protesters laughed at her. She was dragged away by police.
Alexeyev said participation would have been greater if the event had been permitted by authorities.
Organizers did not want to put a large number of people at risk by inviting them to take part, Alexeyev said, so no notices were posted on gay-themed web sites and no mass mailings were conducted.
St. Petersburg Times 2006/05/30
"Normal" Russians Seek Prey
By Anastasiya Lebedev
MOSCOW — One of the victims of the violence that broke out at Saturday’s aborted gay rights march had the misfortune of simply being the wrong color.
While walking down Tverskaya Ulitsa with a female companion, the dark-skinned man, who did not give his name, was attacked by ultranationalists looking for prey.
As he was overtaken by some of the mob, the man was knocked to the ground and punched and kicked. The young woman, a Russian, tried to shield him with her body.
An onlooker tried to tear away one of the attackers, and five or six of the assailants fled just before police officers arrived, ushering the man and woman, both in their twenties, into a squad car. None of the thugs who had attacked the man were detained.
What became clear at the march Saturday was that the ultranationalists, Orthodox Church protesters and other opponents of gay rights were not only fighting gay rights — they were protesting anything they deemed un-Russian. Whether it was South Asians or Westerners or anyone who collided with their nostalgia for a closed, imperial Russia, everyone on “the outside” was a potential target.
One young man who only gave his first name, Alexei, happily admitted that he had taken part in the beating of a German lawmaker, Volker Beck.
“I punched him in the face myself because I’m a normal Russian guy,” Alexei said, grinning.
Using a widespread Russian expression, Alexei said he and others came to protest the march to “combine the pleasant things with the useful things” — hanging out with his friends while physically beating people he considers perverts.
Kirill Frolov, head of the Moscow chapter of the Orthodox Citizens’ Union, passed out flyers to passersby saying that European officials involved in the march were seeking to instigate an Orange Revolution-style overthrow of the government in Russia. The flyers also said that the bird flu sweeping the globe was God’s punishment for homosexuality.
Frolov added that the union had worked closely with law enforcement agencies.
Alexei Gozhgo, 19, marched with the Cossacks, who, he said, came from the Tula region. He said he opposed gays and lesbians because they would not do anything to boost Russia’s shrinking population.
Not far away, on Tverskaya Ulitsa, two women holding hands voiced support for the display of gay solidarity.
“This is a necessary and effective action,” one of the women, Yekaterina Shavyrina, said. “We’re also a part of society.”
Russia insufficiently tolerant of gays, lesbians - campaigner
Moscow, May 29, Interfax - The Russian public is insufficiently tolerant of gays and lesbians, Moscow Human Rights Bureau Director Alexander Brod told Interfax on Monday.
The bureau is monitoring xenophobia in Russia with European Union support.
"Research shows that about one-third of Russians feel negatively toward those with non-traditional sexual orientations. This is a sign of high intolerance," he said.
"We see that Russia is still far from being tolerant. This is deplorable and incompatible with the principles of a civilized state," he said.
Bearing in mind public feelings, the action in Moscow on Saturday should not have been held, Brod said.
Unauthorized actions by supporters and opponents of a gay pride parade were held in downtown Moscow on Saturday. Over 100 people were detained.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006. Page 11.
Whether for or Against the Cops Must Protect
By Ella Paneyakh
Saturday's gay parade was bound to draw attention. It occurred in a country where a citizen arriving from the provinces in his own capital has about the same rights as an illegal alien in most of Europe, attempts to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence sound like some kind of Western exotica and torture by the police is routine. The fact that people here are less than respectful of gay rights shouldn't come as a surprise.
But the authorities did all they could to turn this exotic, but completely innocent, procession into an embarrassment. First, they prohibited the event on the grounds of complaints from the public and concern that there would be a major disturbance. Nobody bothered to point out that preventing disturbances is the police's job and that potential troublemakers shouldn't stand in the way of a citizen's right to protest.
The activists, deciding to hold the event anyways, were met by Orthodox Christian fundamentalists and other radicals. In principle, there shouldn't be any problem here. Under normal civil society conditions, among the different minorities are those who believe the function of other people's sexual organs falls within their sphere of competence. In the United States, these include the people who picket abortion clinics and scream all manners of filth at frightened and troubled women entering. People who accompany and try to protect these women are instructed to stay close in order to shield them, but not to make contact with the protesters in any way. This constitutes assault, and the police aren't going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who ran into whom -- they are just there to maintain order. The anti-abortion activists understand this as well.
The job of proper law enforcement officers is to leave their personal politics on the shelf and take care of their primary responsibility: ensuring order and defending the rights of the citizenry. They are there to apprehend -- hopefully without maiming -- hooligans attacking the demonstrators and, most importantly, to ensure that all the rest, fundamentalists and homosexuals included, are able to express their opinions peacefully. Then we can charge both sides with holding an unauthorized demonstration. The riot troops managed not only to allow attacks on participants in the march but also to attack a lot of people themselves.
This doesn't mean that in Russia the state is particularly homophobic or anti-Orthodox or totalitarian. It means that the state, in its basic role as an organization providing citizens with order, safety and the chance to stand up peacefully for what they believe, simply doesn't exist.
Ella Paneyakh is a St. Petersburg-based sociologist. A longer version of this comment appeared in Vedomosti.
by alfayoko2005 | 2006-05-30 01:57