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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Police Protect LGBT Activists in Russia

By Sergey Chernov -
The Rainbow Flash Mob — an extremely rare authorized LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights event — took place without incident due to heavy police presence Tuesday, despite threats from nationalists and the arrival of tough-looking opponents at the site.
More than 100 participants holding rainbow flags and posters with slogans such as “Homosexuality Is Not an Illness” and “Different Love, Equal Rights” released 300 balloons into the sky to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The event was organized by the local LGBT rights group Vykhod (Coming Out). The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is marked on May 17 because it was on this day in 1990 that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
Around 50 counterdemonstrators came, but were prevented by the police from entering the fenced parking lot at Park Aviatorov in the south of the city, where the event was held, and stood outside waiting for the rally to finish.
But after the event, which lasted about half an hour, participants were put onto two buses — one rented by the organizers and another provided by the police, as the activists did not fit into one bus — and taken away from the location under police protection.
A nationalist group called the Russian Imperial Movement had urged its supporters to stop the “perverts” in a statement on its web site Monday.
Although the Russian Imperial Movement held its own authorized event “against pedophiles and sodomites” in the Nekrasov Gardens in the city center at the same time, they called on supporters to “demonstrate civic consciousness and come to the LGBT event instead of our event to counter the profaners of the city of St. Peter.”
“Death to pedophiles, sodomites and molesters!” they wrote on their site.
This was the second authorized LGBT rights event to be held in St. Petersburg. The first, smaller rally held in November was brought to a premature halt due to counter-protesters who came waving Orthodox Christian church banners and icons, singing prayers and throwing eggs at the participants. Ten were detained and charged with disorderly conduct.
City Hall and district administrations routinely refuse to authorize such events, usually on the grounds that some other group has already been authorized to hold a rally at the same place and at the same time.
When checking the location at the proposed time, however, activists usually find that there are no events being held there.
Most recently, City Hall denied LGBT activists permission to participate in May Day marches on Nevsky Prospekt, telling them to demonstrate in a deserted location outside the city next to a forest, a lake and two cemeteries, according to activists.

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