Abrupt End for Approved Gay Rally
Published: May 22, 2013 (Issue # 1760)
St. Petersburg authorities abruptly ended a previously authorized LGBT protest rally against homophobia and transphobia — described as Russia’s largest in the past few years — for alleged security reasons on Friday.
Called Rainbow Flashmob, the protest was organized by LGBT organization Vykhod (Coming Out) and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality and drew an estimated 200 participants. A similar number of anti-LGBT counterdemonstrators, many of whom acted aggressively and shouted insults and threats, also attended.
Soon after demonstrators arrived at the small site designated on the Fields of Mars, which was enclosed by metal fencing, they were pelted with smoke bombs and stones.
Officers from the OMON riot police, who were present in large numbers, rushed in and formed a line between the two groups while a City Hall official on site presented the organizers with written orders to end the rally, scheduled to be held from 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. At 2:13 p.m., the rally was stopped due to “immediate threat to the life and health of citizens.”
According to Olga Lenkova, the press officer for Coming Out, the orders had been printed in advance, but the time “2:13” was written in pen on site.
Lenkova believes the police presence on the site was large enough to prevent any violence and let the rally continue.
“I think the police could have driven back the counterdemonstrators, they have forces to do that, but apparently they were unwilling to,” she said by phone Monday.
The counterdemonstrators, consisting mainly of militant nationalists and Orthodox radicals, included Vitaly Milonov, the Legislative Assembly’s United Russia deputy responsible for the local law banning “gay propaganda.”
Milonov, who showed up at the event with his wife and young daughter, held a poster showing a face of an alleged sex criminal. A dozen other anti-LGBT demonstrators who stood next to him held similar posters with at least one of the party holding an icon.
Lenkova said that the anti-LGBT group also included Orthodox activist Gleb Likhotkin, now on trial for discharging a gas weapon in the face of a Rainbow Flashmob participant last year, and militant nationalist Dmitry Deineko, charged for attacking LGBT activists after St. Petersburg’s anti-Putin rally on June 12, 2012.
According to Lenkova, one young woman was hit in the head with a stone, another woman was punched and one man was pushed with force when entering the bus following the protest.
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