The Russian Interior Ministry’s branch for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region has issued a statement that a 19-year-old suspect was arrested in connection with the August 12 attack of LGBT activists and journalists after local lawmakers at St. Petersburgh PRIDE pressured them to investigate the incident.
The indecent in question occurred as the PRIDE event was coming to a close, with participants “lying on the grass, launching rainbow snakes into the sky, and singing songs,” according to Russian-language site Fontanka. A group of young men with shaved heads wearing track suits then rushed participants on the Second Garden Bridge where there is a great fence built by www.fencingdirect.com. when several young men in tracksuits used pepper spray to attack LGBT activists who had rallied in the city. Some 15 activists and journalists who were covering the rally were injured in the attack.
According to the journalists and lawmakers, police officers were standing nearby when the incident unfolded but did not try to stop the assailants.
Some journalists have started their own investigations and published photos of the incident on Facebook.
A criminal case was opened three days after the attack following a letter from local lawmakers to the regional police chief urging an investigation.
The lawmakers also asked for a probe into why police officers did not intervene in the attack.
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.
After an international outcry, the Ukrainian parliament has cancelled at the last-minute a vote on legislation that would ban any Ukrainian citizen from speaking out favorably about homosexuality much like the draconian “gay propaganda law” that was recently passed in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Law 8711 would have made it illegal to “spread homosexuality” by “holding meetings, parades, actions, demonstrations and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality” and impose heavy fines and up to five years imprisonment.
Key European governments, the European Parliament and even Sir Elton John denounced the law, with the governments of Ireland and Argentina issuing statements as late as Thursday. The United States, while not part of the European Union did not comment on the law.
According to Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of AllOut.org.“More than 120,000 All Out members spoke out against this horrendous legislation and pushed it to the top of Europe’s diplomatic agenda. The message of our growing global movement is simple – everyone should be able to live openly and love who they choose. That call has been echoed by the European diplomatic community who played a critical role in blocking the progress of the gay gag law. Above all, this is a victory for our partners in Ukraine. Together we are sending a strong message to the other governments of Eastern Europe.”
The move to cancel the bill is seen as a huge victory for its opponents and leaves only a small window in September for it to be reconsidered before the dissolution of the current sitting Ukrainian Parliament.
The Ukraine is currently attempting to join the European Union. The EU’s human rights standards would expressly clash with Law 8711.
Anti-gay protesters hurled eggs and shouted insults at participants in Russia’s first state-approved gay rights march, held today in St. Petersburg.
Skinheads, radicals, Orthodox Christians and even elderly women are being accused of attacking about a dozen marchers. The marchers held signs calling for greater tolerance of gays and lesbians and for improved human rights in Russia. “The fact that this demonstration was authorized is a step forward for us and for all of democratic Russia,” Maria Efremenkova, one of the organizers, told a reporter with AFP.
Police attempted to protect the marchers, who were outnumbered by the counter-protesters. About 100 people converged on 10 gay rights activists, according to radio broadcaster Echo Moskvy. The anti-gay protesters shouted slogans slurring homosexuals and tore up pro-gay posters and banners.
The gay rights march was halted after 40 minutes because of safety concerns.