Footage of the violence many queer Eastern Europeans face when they take to the streets to increase the visibility of their communities convinced the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) to highlight the human rights deficit many countries still confront when it comes to equality for queer people.
VPS president John Boychuk says the level of “hatred, abuse and violence associated with something that was supposed to be a simple, peaceful march, not a parade, not a rally” was so shocking that “we felt we had to do something.”
To that end, the VPS invited Dmitri Bartenev and Tomasz Baczkowski, representatives of the Moscow and Warsaw Prides respectively, to be grand marshals at this year’s Vancouver Pride celebrations in an effort to show solidarity.
For a second year in a row, Moscow’s Pride rally ended in violence as protesters targeted gays who had gathered for the event, May 27, while police looked on (see story page 12).
Pride went more smoothly in nearby Poland this year as a record 20,000 people marched through downtown under heavy police protection, May 19 (see brief page 13). But two years ago, then-Mayor Lech Kaczynski banned the march after he accused organizers of “propagating gay orientation.” Kaczynski is now president of Poland.
Bartenev and Baczkowski will have several opportunities to share their experiences with Vancouverites this summer. Among other events, they will attend a film and dialogue evening, held in cooperation with Out on Screen at Vancity Theatre, featuring a graphic film entitled Prides in Conflict about the turmoil that pervades Eastern European Prides.
“Why not bring that to Vancouver,” Boychuk says, “and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got something fantastic here, but let’s also not forget our brothers and sisters that are out there, that are getting beaten up, that are being shut down by their government, that are not getting the support from any level.’
“Let’s be a role model, let’s step up to the plate and let’s show them there is hope,” says Boychuk.