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RCMP thwarts protest against Russian anti-gay laws

Marchers told they cannot demonstrate in front of embassy

Protesters move to the sidewalk beside the Russian embassy to tie ribbons. Credit: Bradley Turcotte

The RCMP stopped a planned demonstration against Russia’s anti-gay legislation on Aug 25 that had been organized by youth diversity initiative Jer’s Vision and SAW Gallery.

Following the Capital Pride parade, supporters armed with ribbons and protest signs travelled down Laurier Avenue to the Russian embassy on Charlotte Street.

RCMP Constable Laurette Jones awaited the protesters and said that, in adherence with the Ottawa bylaw pertaining to demonstrations in front of embassies, the group had to move to the opposite side of the street and could not tie ribbons to the gate.  

“We’re trying to make a statement about the importance of the rights of these people, and we’re not allowed to do things like stand in front of the embassy. What does that say?” Jer’s Vision’s Hannah Collins asked.

Protesters then tied ribbons to street signs and trees directly beside the embassy.

The planned action was part of Jer’s Vision’s Open the Door to LGBT Rights in Russia campaign.

Jer’s Vision liaised with gay Russians to ask what they want from supportive Canadians.

The steps include donating money through Canada Action Now to help fund the planned Winter Pride during the 2014 Sochi Games, writing letters to Russian President Vladimir Putin and letting Sochi 2014 sponsors know you are against the laws.

“When you’re fighting tough battles, sometimes you don’t always get what you want. But then you come back. This was not the climax of our campaign,” Jer’s Vision founder Jeremy Dias says of the demonstration. “This was just an artistic representation of our feelings and our support for people in need. This is not the end; this is merely the beginning.”

The situation in Russia is an assault on freedom of expression that disproportionately affects gays, Amnesty International Canada’s Jackie Hansen says.

“What we’re wondering is what is Putin so afraid of?” Hansen asks. “What is President Putin so afraid of that he’s passing laws that are making people go back into the closet, that are making it really difficult for NGOs [non-government organizations] to do any work at all,  for protest to happen, lawful demonstration to happen.”

Since the demonstration was thwarted, Dias says, many concerned people have contacted Jer’s Vision to get involved with and donate to the campaign.

Jer’s Vision is in talks with #TOwithRussia to examine the best course of action for national initiatives, Dias says.  

Watch video coverage of the protest