Police in Russia harassed or arrested several LGBT rights activists in connection with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17, the Russian LGBT Network reported.
But most of the IDAHOT events in 16 Russian cities occurred without disruption.
Many of the celebrations were organized as “Rainbow flashmobs” without a public announcement of timing or location in order to reduce the likelihood of attacks by homophobic opponents. More than 150 people took part in the flashmob in St. Petersburg.
Queer Russia estimated that about 200 people gathered for the St. Peterburg event, carrying signs about peace, love, diversity and tolerance. For protection, they were surrounded by around 200 armored policemen.
Activist Polina Andrianova commented:
“Thanks to the continued solidarity and collaboration within LGBT groups and wider human rights community, and to the ombudsman and the police talking to each other and doing their job well, this time around we had peace at the rally.
“The real celebration will come, though, when an army of armored policemen will not be needed to surround a group of LGBT who want to speak about love and peace.”
This year, the police protection was needed. A bus transporting participants to the IDAHOT event was attacked with stones by a group of young men, but no one was hurt.
“Coming to an LGBT action always sobers you up to the realities of our life in Russia today,” one participant said.
Police in Moscow, Murmansk, Perm and Vladimir detained activists in connection with IDAHOT flashmobs.
Violetta Grudina, the organizer of the Rainbow flashmob in Murmansk in northwest Russia, was detained before the event began on a charge of “propaganda of homosexuality.” Police said that, by publishing information online about LGBT events, she “committed propaganda of homosexuality among minors.”
Several members of the group LGBT-Perm were also detained on May 17.
Julia Babintseva, an activist in the LGBT rights group Raduzhny Dom, which is based in Tyumen, 1,600 miles east of Moscow, was harassed by police, but has not been detained or charged. Instead police called her and visited her parents.
The Russian LGBT Network said that her situation resembles what occurred in Samara, southeast of Moscow near the Kazakhstan border, in connection with this year’s annual anti-bullying Day of Silence protest on April 11. After the event, LGBT activists there started to get calls and then charges.
The Russian LGBT-Network is providing legal support for Grudina and Babintseva.
“Solidarity was one of the main messages of May 17th this year. We are ready to support everyone who suffers because of unlawful actions of the police,” said Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the LGBT Network.