Gay rights activists are gearing up for the Moscow pride parade to be held on May 27, despite a ban on the event and the threat of violence and arrests.
Last year, skinheads, neo-fascists and Christian militants attacked parade participants. Eggs and smoke bombs were thrown at gay rights supporters, who were unprotected by police.
“Those who spoke against equality rights were given free reign to do so,” says John Fisher, the co-director of gay right’s organization ARC International. “Those who spoke in favour of equality rights were thrown to the ground and arrested by police and held in police vans and taken to police stations.”
Fisher attended last year’s parade and he says there is a concern of more violence at this year’s event.
Pride organizers held a press conference earlier this month to announce their intention to defy the city’s ban on the parade. Several unidentified people interrupted the meeting by shouting “Moscow will drown in gay blood,” according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov has fuelled homophobia in the city, and he has vowed to never permit gay pride parades as long as he is mayor.
“Our church, mosque and synagogue — that is to say, all the three major confessions in Moscow — have spoken strongly against such parades,” Luzhkov told Russkoye Radio last year.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for Moscow and for Russia. Morality works here. If anyone has any deviations from normal principles in organizing one’s sexual life, those deviations should not be exhibited for all to see,” he added.
Parades in other eastern European cities banned
Moscow is among a number of eastern European cities that have tried to prevent gay pride events.
Earlier this month, authorities in Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, rejected an application for a parade this weekend, but event organizers vow to defy the ban.
For the past two years, anti-gay protesters have attacked pride events in Riga, Latvia. Last year, a large group of people threw human excrement at the participants of a gay pride event. Despite past troubles, organizers are gearing up for this year’s event, to be held in early June, with support from Amnesty International and London Pride. A recent district court ruling found that the city’s decision to ban the parade in 2006 was illegal.
Last month, people threw eggs at participants in a small pride event in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. City hall banned the parade again this year, despite a recent Moldovan Supreme Court ruling that a previous ban on the parade was illegal.
Warsaw parade goes on, with backing of European court
At least 5,000 people took part in the Warsaw pride parade in Poland last weekend, and no incidents of violence were reported. This is in stark contrast to 2005, when the Polish government banned the parade. Right-wing activists confronted participants and several people were injured.
The European Court Of Human Rights recently ruled that the Polish government violated the rights of gay activists by banning the 2005 Warsaw parade. The court ruled that the parade ban violated the right to freedom of assembly, found in the European Convention On Human Rights.
Fisher says that he hopes the court ruling will lead to a greater awareness of gay rights in Russia and other regions of Europe that are signatories to the human rights convention, but he says it may take time to see change.
“Many states around the world are signatories to international human rights agreements, but of course that doesn’t mean that all of the states respect those international standards in the same way,” he says.