Gay Pride Banned, Organizers Charged Under Notorious Anti-Gay Law
Original article: http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=35911
City Hall performed an abrupt about-face on Thursday evening when it retracted the official approval it had issued Tuesday for the St. Petersburg Gay Pride event due to be held this weekend, and had the organizers charged with violating the city’s infamous anti-gay law. But the organizers say they will go ahead with the rally despite the ban.
City Hall said that the ban was imposed on the grounds that local media had reported it as a “gay pride event (parade),” rather than a “march and stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights,” as it was described in the application submitted to City Hall last week, the organizers said.
The organizers were summoned to City Hall on Thursday to be informed that holding the event was “not possible” and that they would be held responsible if they went ahead with it.
According to St. Petersburg Gay Pride’s chair Yury Gavrikov, who is also the chair of Ravnopraviye (Equality) LGBT rights organization, after handing them the official rejection letter, Leonid Bogdanov, head of City Hall’s Law and Order Committee, told Gavrikov and fellow organizer Sergei Volkov that a law enforcement representative wanted to talk to them.
A police officer then entered the room and charged the two activists with violating the law forbidding the “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors,” Gavrikov said.
Gavrikov and Volkov were told that they had passed information about the authorized event to the website GayRussia.ru and local newspapers Nevskoye Vremya and Metro, and by doing so had distributed information “promoting the social equality of same-sex relationships with traditional marriage” among minors.
“What this means is that first they authorized the event, and then charged us for giving information about it to the media,” Gavrikov said late Thursday, adding that he and Volkov were held for more than two hours at City Hall.
He also said that City Hall had insisted that all six people who signed the original application for authorization would come to the meeting, but that the authorities at no time stated that the meeting would be about a ban on the rally or that the organizers would face charges.
The organizers of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride — who already face substantial fines — said that the initial authorization had the force of law, but that the document presented to them Thursday revoking the authorization was not legal, and that they would go ahead with the rally on Saturday, July 7 at 2 p.m. in the Polyustrovsky park — the site and time initially approved by City Hall.
For the past two years, gay pride events in St. Petersburg have been banned by City Hall on questionable grounds, but were attempted to be held anyway in 2010 (on Palace Square) and 2011 (on Senate Square next to the Bronze Horseman), resulting in arrests.
Last year the event was attacked by a number of young men, some hiding their faces, who managed to punch at least two participants before those participants were arrested.
“The authorization was revoked due to the fact that the format of the application did not correspond to the actual event that the LGBT activists were planning to hold,” St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko’s spokesman Andrei Kibitov told RIA Novosti.
Kibitov added that the ban was also influenced by complaints from the public.
“A great number of calls and emails have been received, not only from St. Petersburg but from other Russian cities as well, asking us to cancel the gay parade,” he was quoted as saying.
The “anti-propaganda” law — proposed by local United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov in November 2011 and signed into law by governor Poltavchenko this March — imposes fines for offenders, set at 5,000 rubles ($154) for individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,537) for officials and 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($7,686-$15,373) for legal entities.
The St. Petersburg Gay Pride was initially authorized Tuesday to be held in the remote and mostly deserted Polyustrovsky park. The site was suggested by City Hall as an alternative after it rejected all of the more central routes and sites suggested by the organizers.