Defend the right to protest
Defy threat of arrests and bashings by police and Neo-Nazis
London – 11 May 2009
Despite threats to bash and arrest the marchers, British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will join this Saturday’s Moscow Gay Pride parade – this year renamed Slavic Gay Pride to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality struggles in all Slavic countries, Russian and non-Russian.
The parade is scheduled to take place in Moscow at lunchtime on Saturday 16 May, and coincides with the final of the Eurovision song contest which is being held later that night, also in Moscow.
The Moscow authorities have said the parade is banned and have threatened “tough measures” against anyone who tries to march.
Moscow police chief Vladmir Pronin was reported by the Russian news agency Interfax on 8 March as warning that gay pride parades in the capital are “unacceptable – gay pride parades shouldn’t be allowed.”
“No one will dare to do it, such ‘brave-heart’ will be torn to shreds,” he added. “The West can say we’re bad guys, but our people will see it is right. Our country is patriarchal…I positively agree with the Church, with the Patriarch, politicians, especially with [Mayor] Luzhkov, who are convinced that man and woman should love each other. It is established by God and nature.”
“In addition to expected police repression, there is the likelihood of mob violence against the Slavic Gay Pride marchers by neo-Nazis, skinheads, ultra-nationalists and Christian fundamentalists – as happened in 2006 and 2007.
“I am joining the parade to show my support for the courageous Russian gay campaigners. All year round they risk arrest, imprisonment and queer-bashing attacks. These men and women are absolute heroes. I salute them,” said Mr Tatchell, who is the human rights spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales and the Green Party parliamentary candidate for the university constituency of Oxford East in south-east England.
“International solidarity is hugely important. My presence is one way to show that gay people around the world support the right of gay people in Russia to live their lives without homophobic prejudice, ostracism, discrimination and violence.
“This parade is in defence of human rights. We are defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. They want legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes. I support their cause.
“Not all Russians are homophobic, but many are. Gay Russians suffer queer-bashing attacks, blackmail, verbal abuse and discrimination in education, housing and employment, This shames the great Russian nation.
“Saturday’s Slavic Gay Pride is about more than gay human rights. It is about the right of all Russian people to freely express their opinions and to protest peacefully. The ban on gay parades is just one example of the systematic suppression of civil liberties in Russia. It is against the Russian constitution and law, which guarantee the right to protest.
“I appeal to President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and Mayor Luzhkov: gay people are no threat to Russian society. Be magnanimous. Uphold democratic rights and freedoms. Allow the Slavic Gay Pride parade.
“Although I am determined to support our Russian and Belarusian comrades, like them I am anxious about what may happen to us. But we have to take some risks; otherwise the homophobes and authoritarians will win.
“I don’t have much confidence that the Moscow police will accept our right to protest or that they will protect us against neo-Nazi violence.
“At Moscow Pride in 2007 I was beaten almost unconscious by right-wing extremists, while the police stood by and watched. They then arrested me. I spent several hours in police detention before being released without charge. My attackers have never been arrested, even though they were clearly identified in photos and film footage.
“When I was beaten up in 2007, my neo-Nazi assailants warned me: ‘If you come back to Moscow, next time we will send you home in a wooden box,’ they said. But I am not afraid or intimidated. These threats won’t deter me of the Russian activists. We are determined to press our case for gay human rights in Russia,” added Mr Tatchell.