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Threat of violence shuts down queer film fest in Siberia

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – The Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk was forced to cancel its third and final day of screenings after organizers and attendees "came under serious threat from a homophobic mob of aggressive youth," festival spokesperson Manny de Guerre said in a June 7 release.

On the second day of the festival, approximately 30 youth surrounded the shopping centre where films were being screened and shouted insults. "It was clear from their discussions with each other and their behaviour that they were intent on violence," de Guerre said in the statement. De Guerre criticized the indifference of police, saying they failed to maintain order or to adequately deal with the threat to filmgoers and organizers. Security guards had to escort attendees to their cars, and de Guerre said it was only the skill of the driver of a taxi carrying festival organizers away from the scene that allowed them to elude the mob that tried to follow in cars and on motorcycles.

Authorities' lack of concern led organizers to pull the plug on the festival.

The Novosibirsk festival is the second of three to take place this week in Siberia. The festival ran into similar problems in the city of Kemerovo. The final festival is scheduled to begin in Tomsk today, and organizers say security has been increased for the opening.

Novosibirsk's parliament has successfully piloted an anti-gay gag law — similar to those already passed in four other Russian cities — through its first reading and had its second reading scheduled yesterday.

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