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Eight arrested in St Petersburg for ignoring Pride ban

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Activists in St Petersburg made good on their promise to ignore their city's decision to ban their third Pride march and were arrested for trying to stage two Pride rallies July 7, according to media reports.

Gay Star News reports that eight people were arrested, three at one protest at a city park and five at another rally site near the city hall of Russia's second-largest city. The report says Yury Gavrikov, of Ravnopravie, the group that organized Pride, indicated that the activists were still being detained but were expected to appear in court for disregarding the city's anti-gay gag law, passed earlier this year. The law was created to prevent public discussion of queer issues or events that favourably portray queer people.

Initially, permission was granted for an event at a park on the city's outskirts, but the city then reneged on its authorization July 6, Gay Star News says.

In May, a St Petersburg court ruled that the city's use of its gay propaganda law to ban queer activists from staging rallies for the March 7 Day of Silence and the May 17 International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia was unlawful. The Smolninsky district court judge said authorities were not in a position to determine whether the rallies — even before they had taken place — would lead to homosexual propaganda. The judge also found there was no authority to deny a public rally under federal law.

But earlier in the same month, a St Petersburg court convicted gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev for breaking the "gay propaganda" law, making him the first person to be found guilty under the legislation. He was fined 5,000 rubles ($170) for picketing the city hall with a poster that read, "Homosexuality is not a perversion."