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15 LGBT Activists Arrested In Moscow and St. Petersburg During Sochi Opening Ceremonies

Sochi Olympics blood

Russian media reports that 10 more LGBT activists have been arrested in Moscow: Elena Kostyuchenko, Anna Annenkov, Lynn Reid, Knicks Nemeni, Olga Mazurova, Gleb Warrior, Tarja Polyakova, Daria Starshinina and two Swedish nationals. The group were arrested by police at Red Square today as they waved rainbow flags and sang the Russian national anthem. The protest was timed to coincide with the opening ceremonies at Sochi.

Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, 5 Russia LGBT activists were arrested while preparing to hang a banner with the exact wording of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter from the city’s Belinskiy Bridge. That principle states, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.” Principle 6 has become a rallying cry for athletes who oppose LGBT discrimination and we should expect to see the ubiquitous number 6 on rebel athletes throughout the games. One of those taken into custody was Anastasia Smirnova, a leading figure in the country’s LGBT movement. Smirnova has received international attention in recent months by continuously linking the oppression of the LGBT community with the Olympic games. Human Rights Watch highlighted Smirnova’s work last year and quoted her saying, “Ours is a campaign for equality. It is a campaign that promotes the idea of human dignity for LGBT people in Russia—but it is not a campaign against the country.”

According an LGBT activist who witnessed the arrests that their demonstration was over before it started, with police speeding in and surrounding the four immediately. Eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous out of safety concerns stated:  “Either the phones are being listened to or maybe there are cameras all over the city; only a few people knew about this action.”

The charges as of now are unclear. They are in custody for reasons that are still being speculated upon, but are probably being held for “participating in an illegal action”, essentially demonstrating without permission, or being in violation of Russia’s so-called “anti-gay propaganda” laws.

Heroes every one of them.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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