BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – In spite of so-called "gay
propaganda" laws that are now entrenched in five Russian cities, a number of queer
activists and their allies took to the streets of St Petersburg with rainbow
flags as part of the May 1 civil rights and freedom march. They were eventually
Five minutes into the peaceful march, permitted by the
city, police called for the removal of the rainbow flags, according to information
released by the queer St Petersburg organization Coming Out. "When
activists refused, they were forcefully detained and are now facing charges of 'propaganda of homosexuality' and non-compliance with the
police," the release stated. "One activist was detained for holding a
sign 'homophobia is illegal.'"
Some reports say authorities detained 11 protesters;
others say 15 or 17. St Petersburg's version of the "gay propaganda" law went into effect
March 30. Various levels of fines
can be imposed on those who promote "propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism,
bisexuality, transgenderism and pedophilia" to minors.
Among those detained, according to Coming Out, are Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the
Russian LGBT Network; Mikhail Belodedov, of Coming Out; Sergey Kondrashov, a lawyer and straight ally,
(who was detained in a previous protest for opposing the anti-gay measures but
released); and Elena Popova, director of Soldiers'
Mothers, a St Petersburg organization that defends the rights of draftees.
Since enactment, there have been no convictions by the
court under the new law in St Petersburg.
In its May 1 release, Coming Out says that Russian
authorities have repeatedly said the law is intended only to protect minors,
not to clamp down on queer rights actions.
Thus far, Ryazan, Kostroma, Arkhangelsk, St Petersburg and Novosibirsk have passed similar anti-gay legislation, with calls being made for nationwide implementation.
Landing image: Reuters, as seen on guardian.co.uk.