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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 Chicagos 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 dont 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.





 


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Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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