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Protesters Left in Peace at Annual LGBT Rally

Published: July 30, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • Protesters were forced to stay in a fenced-in area on the Field of Mars.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / for SPT

  • Kirill Kalugin holds a rainbow flag that was torn during last years rally.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / for SPT

One activist and one photographer were arrested at the fifth annual St. Petersburg LGBT Pride rally on Saturday, July 26. Nevertheless, the one-hour rally against the discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Russia went ahead more peacefully than ever before in the rallys history, neither being attacked by anti-gay crowds nor shut down by the police. It has also been described as the lengthiest protest in the history of the citys LGBT movement.

About 100 people attended the rally, which was held in a small fenced site on the Field of Mars in central St. Petersburg. Under a recent law, the site was designated by City Hall for holding small public assemblies. Dozens of police vehicles and hundreds of the OMON riot police were stationed at and near the fenced site, with officers searching bags and confiscating water and sharp objects as participants entered the site.

In fact, last year, despite an agreement with City Hall, the police shut down the rally and arrested more than 60 activists, who had been earlier pelted with stones, eggs and smoke bombs by some 200 anti-gay protesters. A number of LGBT activists were assaulted and beaten during or after the rally. This year, however, only a handful of anti-gay protesters showed up.

Despite this years event being seen by many as an achievement, there were still some at the rally protesting against the authorities for only allowing the event to be held in a fenced site. Speaking at the rally, activist Kirill Kalugin who held a rainbow flag that had been torn by anti-gay attackers at last years protest said he had the right to express his opinion elsewhere as he was a free man in not a very free country.

Personally, its not necessary to have some date and the Field of Mars to take to the street with a rainbow flag, Kalugin told The St. Petersburg Times this week. I am not going to be guided by the wishes of City Hall or anyone else when I plan a protest, he said.

Theyve created this cell for us, and they dont let us go anywhere else. I understand the organizers, who want to hold a peaceful rally, but they should also understand me when I say that I am getting tired of walking like a flock into this paddock. There has been criticism that I demand respect, while not respecting the police, City Hall, the state, but I dont find it necessary to show respect for those people that dont have any respect for me and pass laws against me in my own country.

If City Hall permits some rally, it means it sees it as safe and not scary, because it controls it. I dont want the state to get into my business and decide for me where I am allowed to stand and where I am not.

Protester Yevgeny Prokopenko was arrested this year after an exchange with police officers, who claimed that his placard reading Sodomy is sweeter than honey violated the national law prohibiting the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations with minors. Prokopenko explained that his placard was a protest against the law and he was then taken to a police vehicle after refusing to put it away.

It was an anti-homophobic message, said Prokopenko. It implied that non-traditional sexual relations were not bad but quite the opposite. I hoped a little that I would be charged with this crime, so that I had an opportunity to confront the law in court because I dont agree with it. Prokopenko was told he would be called when a hearing is appointed.

Photographer Alexei Belozyorov was also detained. Speaking this week to the St. Petersburg Times, he said that a man protested against him taking photographs of the minors without their parents consent. According to Belozyorov, the police held him on the pretext that he had no identification and let him go three hours later without pressing charges.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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