BY DANIELA COSTA – A large group of masked assailants attacked a gay club in Moscow during a Coming Out Day party.
The attack, which happened the evening of Oct 11, came just days after Orthodox Christian activists called for a ban on queer clubs in the city.
Reports say the attackers rushed Moscow’s 7 Freedays club, vandalizing the venue and beating patrons.
Viktoriya Soto, of the 7 Freedays club, said that a dozen people broke in and were “especially aggressive” toward women, AP reports. Soto said the attack was organized.
Andrei Obolensky, the party’s organizer, told RIA Novosti that the assailants numbered around 20. “They pulled a gun on the bouncers as they entered the club. Then they shouted ‘You wanted a show?’” Obolensky said. “People were bleeding; they had been hit in the head with bottles.”
Three people were sent to hospital and several others were injured. Two of the three hospitalized victims have been released; a young woman is still being treated for broken glass in her eye.
Eyewitnesses told RIA Novosti that about 50 people were in the club at the time of the attack.
“I thought it was part of the show because it was Coming Out Day and people came in wearing masks,” Pavel Samburov said. “Only later I realized it wasn’t a show but an attack.”
Moscow police said they have initiated a manhunt for the attackers and will review security camera footage in an attempt to identify them. “An inquiry has been launched into the nightclub attack. CCTV footage from the venue has been seized and that from nearby streets is being examined."
Samburov, a member of the Rainbow Association, suspects that members of Narodny Sobor, an Orthodox Christian group, are behind the attack.
The nationalist group launched a petition calling on Moscow's parliament to ban gay bars and clubs.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but discrimination against homosexuals remains prevalent.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) has decided to boycott the Peace and Sport conference in Sochi, Russia, after organizers failed to ensure the safety of the FGG’s delegate.
A spokesperson for the FGG says the group refuses to put its delegate in danger amid a tide of homophobia in Russia. The three-day summit is due to start on Oct 31.
“We regret that the hosts of an event that seeks to promote understanding find themselves unable to ensure the personal integrity and the ability to speak openly of those they invite,” wrote FGG co-presidents Kurt Dahl and Emy Ritt in a letter to the organization's president, Joël Bouzou.
“We see this situation as proof that the choice of Sochi in particular and Russia in general to host international sport events is a grave error that is contrary to the fundamental principles of sport for all.”
Sochi will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014. Russian authorities have banned a Pride House event for queer athletes and spectators at the Games.