Russia’s adoption of a nationwide ban on “gay propaganda” has already led to violence against peaceful gay-rights activists. But the cooperation of many supporters of human rights has helped to support and comfort those who were arrested or beaten.
In a joint statement, the Russian LGBT Network, the Russian LGBT organization Coming Out, and the Russian Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality said about last week’s Pride Parade in St. Petersburg:
On June 29, 2013, participants in a peaceful demonstration in support of human rights and equality for people of different sexual orientations and gender identities (the St. Petersburg LGBT Pride Parade) found themselves the subjects of abuse and physical assault at the hands of nationalists. Having started their attack with vulgar verbal abuse, followers of various nationalist groups soon switched to beating the demonstrators and pelting them with stones and smoke bombs.
Police officers at the site failed to act adequately in order to prevent the violence, leaving the demonstration’s participants in the position of having to defend themselves. The demonstrators displayed true courage and strength of spirit in the face of attacks that left many of them with minor or significant injuries. At least seven people were later hospitalized by ambulance.
The attackers planned and coordinated their actions in advance. Among the organizers were groups “Slavyanskaya Sila” (Slavic Power), “Russkaya Probezhka” (Russian Joggers), and others known for their calls for violence against homosexuals, people belonging to ‘non-Russian’ nationalities, and antifascists. They justified their actions as acceptable under the new laws banning so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’ (or propaganda of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’) at the regional and federal levels. Therefore, the events of June 29 at Marsovo Pole, the site for Saturday’s demonstration, confirmed the apprehensions of many human rights defenders that Russia’s newly-enacted homophobic legislation would spur a growth in violence and incite action from neo-Nazi groups. These events could lead tomorrow to tragic consequences for all of society.
Organizers and participants in the demonstration followed all requirements of the law. Their goals and slogans (observance of civil rights for all, a ban on discrimination, fighting against hate crimes, marriage equality, etc.) fully corresponded to the language and spirit of the Russian Constitution. However, St. Petersburg officials and law-enforcement authorities failed to provide for safety at the event and required its termination under far-fetched pretenses, and many participants were roughly detained. In all, nearly 50 of the demonstration’s participants were arrested and forced to spend between four to six hours at police headquarters. One of the event’s organizers was kept in detention until the morning of June 30. These people’s constitutional rights to the freedom of assembly and expression were grossly violated.
In the view of the reluctance and inability of the government to fulfill its obligations to its citizens, civil organizations and individuals who could not remain indifferent to the current situation have united to defend the safety and human dignity of the victims of violence and tyranny.
Activists from the Russian LGBT Network, the LGBT organization Coming Out (“Vyhod”), the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality, the group “Help for the Detainees in St. Petersburg,” members of the Public Oversight Commission, the Deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly B. L. Vishnevskiy and many others showed moral support to the detainees, brought them food and water, gathered and distributed information about the situation, and held negotiations with the police. Lawyers of ‘Coming Out’ and the Russian LGBT Network worked round the clock to provide support to the detainees and the victims of violence who were brought to the hospitals. We are proud of St. Petersburg’s defenders of human rights.
Lawyers and psychologists with the LGBT organizations are continuing to provide the participants of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride demonstration the legal and psychological assistance they require. We will absolutely seek justice—that the perpetrators of the attack be held accountable for their actions and that the public authorities’ violation of the people’s rights to freedom of assembly be addressed.
All that has occurred in the last few days has been no isolated or accidental episode. It is the consequence of the tendency towards escalating aggression within far-right groups, which are aware of their impunity to the law and which openly raise the banners of racism, homophobia, and distortion and disregard for the truth. The violence and tyranny that were directed at the participants in the St. Petersburg Gay Pride rally have also demonstrated the growing inability of the government to manage and control these forces. The events of June 29 have proven that only the unity, solidarity, and wisdom of civil society have the power to put a stop to impending tragedy in Russia.
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- LGBT rally in Russia to honor victims of hate crimes (76crimes.com)