Gay activists in Russia are preparing
for a May 2009 Gay Pride march and anti-homophobia conference in
Moscow, despite being denied a parade license since 2006.
Tensions remain high between gay groups
and authorities in Russia after several hostile incidents.
Last June, Moscow's Gay Pride event
resembled more a game of cat and mouse as gay activists eluded
police and anti-gay foes in two gay demonstrations.
A small group of protesters led by gay
rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev (sometimes spelled Alekseev) held
pride flags and banners outside the famed Tchaikovsky music
conservatory. They chanted, “No to homophobia,” and,
“Tchaikovsky was gay.” A second demonstration was held at a
building in front of Moscow's City Hall where a banner was hung
reading “Rights For Gays and Lesbians – homophobia of mayor
Luzhkov to be prosecuted.” The police quickly pulled it down.
Hundreds of balloons were set free over Moscow.
Both demonstrations lasted only minutes
before police arrived on the scene. The brevity and undisclosed
location of the demonstrations allowed activists to elude the
police. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who denied the group a parade
license and has called homosexuality “satanic,” called the
Police, however, managed to arrest four
gay activists upon returning to their apartment. Witnesses at the
scene told ukgaynews.org.uk that the police forced their way into the
apartment by breaking down the door. The four members were held in
custody overnight and charged with “taking part in an unsanctioned
demonstration and for not obeying an order from the police.”
“The police chief arrived to witness
his incompetence in [not] being able to prevent our two actions,”
And in October, authorities in St.
Petersburg shut down a gay and lesbian film festival as it was set to
open by declaring the nightclubs (The Place and Sochi)
where the films were to be screened fire hazards, festival organizer
Irina Sergeeva told gayrussia.ru.
It's believed that authorities also
pressured the state-run Cinema House and a private theater to cancel
their commitments to host the event, which pushed the first-ever
festival into bars and nightclubs.
State Artist of Russia Nikoli Burlyaev
had urged authorities to ban the gay film festival, calling gays
“perverts” and “ill.”
Gay Pride organizers have set aside May
16 for their fourth attempt at staging a Gay Pride march through the
streets of Moscow. Mayors from several European capitals have been
invited to attend the festivities – Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe,
London Mayor Boris Johnson and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit included.
Activists hope gays and lesbians
attending the Eurovision song contest finale in Moscow will attend
the Gay Pride parade.
“[W]e have big plans for next May.
We hope that we will finally get the permission for the human rights
march of sexual minorities,” Alexeyev told gayrussia.ru. “The
Pride organizers are ready to cooperate with police in order to
provide security to the participants of the event.”