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Bloody assault on Moscow Pride

Police arrest gays but let attackers go free

THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY': Police arrested British gay activist Peter Tatchell after he was attacked at Moscow Pride, May 27. They did not arrest his attackers. Credit: Photo courtesy of Peter Tatchell

Police stopped a May 27 Pride rally outside Moscow City Hall before it could start and arrested most of the organizers as they arrived, while anti-gay thugs beat up Russian and foreign gays and lesbians who had gathered for the event.

Police officers, including hundreds of state riot police, did little to halt the bloody assault and, in some cases, chatted casually with the anti-gay attackers and spewed homophobic insults at gay activists.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov had banned a planned Pride parade and any other public Pride events. He called Pride parades “satanic.”

The gay activists, including members of the European Parliament and European national parliaments, had gathered in Tverskaya Square near City Hall to symbolically deliver a protest letter to Luzhkov signed by 42 members of the European Parliament.

Among the many activists beaten and bloodied were British gay leader Peter Tatchell and Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass, who was attacked while giving an interview to the Reuters wire service. Several other activists were also beaten in the middle of interviews with the more than 100 news organizations that covered the event.

“On numerous occasions,” said the BBC, “nationalists circled gay rights activists as they spoke with journalists, then reached in to punch or kick the person being interviewed. Police intervened to arrest dozens of gay rights activists and only rarely detained their attackers.”

“There is no rule of law in Moscow,” said Tatchell, who had a seriously swollen and bloodied right eye. “The right to protest does not exist. This is not a democracy.”

Tatchell said “marauding gangs” of “neo-Nazis, nationalist extremists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists… infiltrated the gay Pride crowd and began indiscriminately attacking participants. The Moscow police looked on and did nothing.”

Tatchell was repeatedly punched, then slammed to the pavement and kicked over and over. Police then dragged him to a bus and pushed him into it with three neo-Nazis.

One cop asked Tatchell if he is gay. When Tatchell said he is, the officer allegedly replied: “Wait until we get you to the police station. Then we will have some fun with you.”

“They arrested me, but let my attackers walk free,” Tatchell said.

German MP Volker Beck and Italian European Parliament Member Marco Cappato also were arrested, as was European Parliament administrator Ottavio Marzocchi.

As Marzocchi was shoved into a police bus, an officer allegedly yelled, “Do this in your own country, faggot,” reported GayRussia.Ru.

“It was [a] short [gay pride],” Dutch European Parliament Member Sophie in ‘t Veld said in a telephone interview with GayRussia.Ru. “Police immediately arrested [chief organizer] Nikolai [Alekseev] and also Nikolai Khramov. There were a lot of cameras everywhere. Many journalists. We felt eggs and other things being thrown. Police did nothing to arrest hooligans….

“I saw a guy with a knife… and I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m out of here.’ We are now in some restaurant with [Italian MP] Vladimir [Luxuria], [pop-music group] tATu and [gay-friendly Russian MP Aleksei] Mitrofanov.”

Luxuria told GayRussia.Ru: “As soon as we got out of the car the police approached us and stopped in a violent way Nikolai and pushed him inside the van. They arrested him and other organizers. I tried to take Nikolai with me and the police pushed me very violently. They throw eggs on me and one went inside my bag on my passport. I am worried I can have problems to leave [Russia]. Then we tried to approach the City Hall but we [were] violently prevented…. We did not manage to [deliver] the letter.”

Chief Pride organizer Alekseev was held overnight in jail along with activists Khramov and Sergei Konstantinov.

A cell phone text message received from Alekseev the next afternoon said: “I am released by court! Next hearing on 9 June. Volker Beck was brilliant witness [and] MP Mitrofanov provided me a brilliant theatrical lawyer…. He helped to lobby authorities in our direction. That was a great combination together with Western European pressure. Thanks to the German Presidency of the EU.”

Alekseev had remained defiant as he waited in jail for the court appearance.

“The protocol written by the police is completely falsified and all the Western MEPs and MPs who were with us could confirm it,” he said in a phone call. “We are accused of having blocked the streets and insulted the police, which is a complete lie. We were on the pavement [sidewalk] and we never insulted the police…. All this is nothing else than the good old method of the KGB.

“We will continue our fight for our rights no matter if it does not please Mr Luzhkov. It’s time for the European Parliament to ask its member states to ban Luzhkov and his non-democratic team from visiting Europe for holidays.”

Last year’s first-ever Moscow Pride ended the same way as this year’s.

After Luzhkov banned a planned parade, organizers instead tried to lay flowers at the Kremlin’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a protest rally near City Hall. Participants in both small events were violently attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police, and the Pride organizers were arrested.

The charges were later dropped. A lawsuit over last year’s ban is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.