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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.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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