Moscow Pride: Third Time?s a Charm?

San Diego, Calif. – Despite bans from the mayor and violent attacks from neofascists, skinheads, Christians and police in 2006 and 2007, Moscow gays will again try to stage a gay pride parade this year.

“The authorities have no legal basis for banning the event,” said chief organizer Nikolai Alekseev. “That is why, even if they ban it again, we will still go on the streets to realize our constitutional right to freedom of assembly.”

The parade is set for May 31, after an international human rights conference scheduled for May 30.

A lawsuit over Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's ban of the 2006 parade is presently before the European Court of Human Rights.

Last year, Luzhkov unleashed a harsh attack on the parade, saying: “[In 2006], Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as satanic. We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future. Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children.”

Activists did not attempt to defy last year's ban. Instead, they gathered near City Hall on pride day to protest the ban. A mêlée ensued and several gays and lesbians were beaten and bloodied by Orthodox Christian and ultra-nationalist protesters as hundreds of police officers stood by and watched. Thirty-one people were detained, including members of European parliaments who had traveled to Moscow to support the pride events.

“On numerous occasions,” said the BBC, “nationalists circled gay rights activists as they spoke with journalists, then reached in to punch or kick the person being interviewed. Police intervened to arrest dozens of gay rights activists and only rarely detained their attackers.”

“There is no rule of law in Moscow,” said British gay leader Peter Tatchell, who suffered a swollen and bloodied right eye in the mêlée. “The right to protest does not exist. This is not a democracy.”

Tatchell said “marauding gangs” of “neo-Nazis, nationalist extremists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists … infiltrated the gay pride crowd and began indiscriminately attacking participants. The Moscow police looked on and did nothing.”

“It was [a] short [pride]," Dutch European Parliament Member Sophie in ‘t Veld said at the time. “Police did nothing to arrest hooligans. … I saw a guy with a knife … and I thought: “‘That's it. I'm out of here.’”

Pride participant Claudia Roth, chairwoman of Germany's Green Party, said, “It has been shown once again today that human rights are systematically abused in [President Vladimir] Putin's Russia.”

The 2006 pride events met the same fate. After Luzhkov banned the parade, organizers tried to lay flowers at the Kremlin's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a rally near City Hall. Participants in both small events were violently attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police, and the pride organizers were arrested. The charges were later dropped.

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