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Police Forcefully Break Up Gay Rights Protest

Published: May 19, 2009 (Issue # 1475)



  • Tatchell
    Photo: Reuters

  • Thayer
    Photo: Reuters

  • OMON police arresting activist Alexeyev. He was released 24 hours later.
    Photo: Thomas Peter / Reuters

MOSCOW — An attempted gay rights protest on Saturday was swiftly broken up by OMON troops, who dragged protesters into police vans.

More than 30 protesters were detained, including Peter Tatchell, a prominent British gay rights activist, Andy Thayer, an activist from Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network, and the organizer, Nikolai Alexeyev.

The unsanctioned protest, called Slavic Pride, was originally announced as taking place at Novopushkinsky Skver in central Moscow, but organizers changed the location at the last moment to the Vorobyovy Gory viewpoint near Moscow State University, a popular spot for wedding photographs.

Police learned of the plans and detained almost half the activists as they arrived at about noon, organizers said. More than 30 OMON troops turned up, in at least three vans.

A handful of protesters including Tatchell and Edvard Murzin, a heterosexual human rights activist, unfurled banners and shouted slogans including, “No compromises! Equal rights! Homophobia is a national disgrace!” Minutes later, OMON troops hurled themselves through a hedge and grabbed protesters, including Tatchell, who was dragged to the ground. As Tatchell was bundled into a police car, he called out, “Russian people don’t have freedom.”

The protest was filmed by television crews, including state-financed Russia Today.

The OMON troops were “needlessly violent,” Tatchell said Sunday. “I had my arm badly twisted up behind my back and they also twisted my wrist ... causing extreme pain.”

Tatchell was taken to the Ramenki police station but released without charges later Saturday after a British Embassy official arrived and Tatchell displayed a press pass, he said.

Organizer Alexeyev arrived separately, walking arm in arm with a drag queen in a wedding dress. Two burly OMON officers began questioning him. Alexeyev asked what offense he was committing, and one said, “We have reason to think that you are going for a walk with a man dressed up as a woman.” Minutes later, both were detained. The man in drag threw his bouquet at a plainclothed official.

The OMON went on to pick up protesters including Irina Fedotova-Fet and Thayer, both of whom were standing alone and talking to journalists. Fedotova-Fet attempted to register a same-sex marriage with her girlfriend Tuesday.

Another female protester, Ksenia Prilepskaya, was dragged into a police van; her clothes were roughly pulled off by OMON troops and her glasses were broken. The organizers’ web site, Gayrussia.ru, reported Sunday that she had suffered a suspected concussion.

A police spokesman said about 40 people were arrested around the city, both at Vorobyovy Gory and at Novopushkinsky Skver.

Prilepskaya said Saturday afternoon that she was being held at the Ramenki police station with 32 people, including Tatchell, Thayer, Alexeyev and 10 to 15 Belarussians.

The Belarussians were freed at about 2 a.m. Seven others were still held after that, including Alexeyev.

Alexeyev told The Moscow Times that he was freed at about noon Sunday after being held for almost 24 hours. He will go to court on May 26 on charges of organizing an illegal protest, he said. The other protesters were fined 500 to 1,000 rubles ($17 to $34).

Alexeyev said he was held separately from the other protesters and interrogated for six hours by FSB officers.

“They insulted me in all possible ways,” he said, adding that they used homophobic insults and psychological pressure but no physical violence.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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