Moscow Gay Pride – Arrests & Violence

Tatchell Bashed by Moscow Fascists.

Police Let Right-Wing Extremists Attack Gays.

Moscow Gay Pride Leader Arrested, with German Green MP Volker Beck.

Moscow – 27 May 2007 – 8pm Moscow time


Arrests and violent attacks marred today’s Moscow Gay Pride events. Around 20 lesbian and gay campaigners were arrested. Many were abused, threatened and assaulted.

The organiser of Moscow Gay Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, is being detained overnight at Moscow’s Tverskaya police station, together with two prominent members of Russia’s Radical and Free Radical parties, Nikolai Khramov and Sergei Konstantinov.

British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was one of more than a dozen Gay Pride participants who were beaten by gangs of neo-Nazis, nationalist extremists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists, with the apparent collusion of the Moscow police and Russia’s elite anti-riot squad, the OMON.

“There is no rule of law in Moscow. The right to protest does not exist. Russia is not a democracy,” said Mr. Tatchell

“Today’s protest was about much more than gay rights. The Moscow Mayor’s decision to ban the Gay Pride march turned the event into a free speech protest. We were defending the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. These freedoms are important for all Russians, gay and straight.

“The ban on Moscow Gay Pride is one aspect of a much wider attack on civil society and human rights. It is evidence of a failed transition from communism to democracy and of a growing trend towards autocracy and authoritarianism,” he added.

The arrests and assaults took place in front of and opposite Moscow City Hall, as about 40 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners assembled for Moscow Gay Pride.

The right to protest is guaranteed under Russian law and under the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia has pledged to uphold.

The first people arrested were Mr. Alekseev and German Green Party Member of Parliament Volker Beck. They were seized not for staging a march, but for merely attempting to deliver a letter to Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, at City Hall. Delivering a letter is, apparently, a crime in President Putin’s Russia.

“After Alekseev and Beck were driven away in a police bus, gangs of right-wing extremists arrived on the scene and waded into the Gay Pride protesters, lashing out indiscriminately with fists and boots. The Moscow police looked on and did nothing to stop them,” reported Mr. Tatchell.

Most Gay Pride participants fled across Tverskaya street to escape the violence, including Mr Tatchell.

Soon afterwards, he unfurled a placard reading, “Gay Rights,” written in both Russian and English. He was set upon and repeatedly bashed.

Moscow police and the OMON riot squad stood by while neo-Nazis punched Mr. Tatchell in the face, dragged him to the ground, and kicked him all over his body.

Clutching a bloody eye, he was arrested by the riot police.

“They arrested me, but let my attackers walk free,” said Mr. Tatchell.

“The Moscow police gave homophobic right-wing extremists a more or less free hand to attack us. Although we were battered left, right and center, the police arrested only a handful of the assailants.

“Instead of protecting us from the violence, the police and OMON colluded with the neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists. I saw some of them fraternising with each other.

“There were hundreds of police and OMON on duty. They could have easily kept the right-wing thugs away from us and arrested the attackers. But they didn’t.

“I observed one police officer talking with the homophobic extremists and pointing to the direction in which some of the Gay Pride participants had fled to get away from the violence. The extremists then stormed off up the street and attacked our people. At times, it looked like the police were encouraging and helping the right-wingers bash us.

“It has been suggested to me by Russian activists that some of the attackers may have been plain clothes police officers,” said Mr. Tatchell.

Following his arrest, Mr. Tatchell was violently dragged by OMON officers to a police bus, where he was put in the intimidating situation of being detained with three neo-Nazis, who had been arrested for other assaults. The police forced him to sit next to them.

While in the bus, he was taunted by members of the riot police. They interrogated him as to whether he was gay. When he answered yes, one of the OMON officers said, “Wait until we get you to the police station. Then we will have some fun with you.”

Soon afterwards, the police also brought to the bus the arrested Member of the European Parliament Marco Cappato, of the Italian Radical Party; Ottavio Marzocchi, a Radical Party European Parliament administrator; and two Russian transgender activists.

Despite immediate requests for medical attention it was not until nearly an hour later that Mr. Tatchell was transferred to an ambulance and a further hour before he was taken under police escort to hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his right eye.

“My vision is blurred and my head is very sore. I’ve got painful bruising all over my body. My right eye is badly swollen and bloodied, but it is expected to heal in a couple of weeks. My injuries are nothing compared to the severe beatings often meted out to Russian human rights, anti-war and environmental activists,” added Mr. Tatchell.

He was discharged from hospital at approximately 3:30 pm, and then taken to the Tverskaya district police station in Moscow.

Mr. Tatchell filed a complaint with the Moscow police about the assault on him, requesting that officers investigate and arrest the assailants.

“Despite the appalling behavior of the riot squad and the Moscow police, the officer investigating my complaint was diligent, fair and professional. But I am not confident that other officers will pursue the investigation and bring my assailants to trial,” said Mr. Tatchell.

At 4:30 pm Mr. Tatchell was allowed to leave the police station on the condition that he return the next day at 2 pm. At this stage, it appears Mr. Tatchell is being treated as a witness to the attack on him, rather than as a suspect.

“An anti-gay mob had assembled outside the police station, with the intention of beating up Gay Pride participants as they were released from police custody. As I left the police station with several other freed Gay Pride marchers, we were pelted with eggs. Some of us were violently attacked by a man dressed as a Russian Orthodox priest and by several homophobic right-wingers. The officers in the police station initially did nothing to protect us. They eventually arrested two of the assailants under pressure from independent human rights observers and from journalists who had photos and film footage of the attack,” said Mr. Tatchell.

“Long after the Moscow Gay Pride protest at City Hall was over, groups of far right nationalists and neo-Nazis roamed the streets, calling each other on mobile phones to coordinate further attacks on people they suspected of participating in Moscow’s Gay Pride. The police made no effort to restrain them.

“In contrast to the heavy-handed way the Gay Pride participants were policed, only a handful of far-right extremists were detained.

“Despite being arrested on charges of assault, most of them were released very quickly – long before the peaceful Gay Pride participants were allowed to leave the police station,” said Mr. Tatchell.

Mr. Tatchell had traveled to Moscow at the request of the Moscow Gay Pride organisers to support the event and to show solidarity with the campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights in Russia. He was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the Moscow Gay Pride conference on Saturday morning, 26 May 2007, at the Swissotel.

Postscript – 31 May 2007

Moscow police confirm that they have opened a criminal investigation into the assault on British gay human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell was informed of this development by police officer Evgeni Guskov, who is based at Tverskaya police station. He was the officer who took Mr. Tatchell’s witness statement on Monday 28 May.

Moscow police spokesperson, Evgeni Gildeyev, claims the man who punched Mr. Tatchell has been identified and arrested (see below). This claim is contradicted by police officer Guskov. He told Mr. Tatchell that the assailant has not been identified or arrested.

“I have very little confidence that the assailant will be arrested or bought to trial. Too many Moscow police are homophobes and fascist sympathisers. They failed to protect us against neo-Nazi violence and they failed to arrest the thugs who attacked us.

“At last year’s attempted Moscow Gay Pride march, the German Green Party MP, Volker Beck, was struck in the face by a rock thrown by a right-wing extremist. The assailant was filmed attacking Mr. Beck. In the Russian edition of Newsweek, he was named and he was quoted openly boasting that he threw the rock. He has never been arrested, let alone bought to court.

“The Moscow authorities protect the far right, even when they commit violent hate crimes and make a public confession,” said Mr. Tatchell.

International Herald Tribune – 27 May 2007

A man in camouflage clothing struck Peter Tatchell, a prominent British gay rights campaigner, hard in the face as he tried to address the news media. The police arrested the assailant and took Tatchell to a police van for his protection, said Evgeni Gildeyev, a spokesman with the Moscow police.