Gays Stoned, Beaten and Arrested

04/07/2013
Submitted by ILGA-Europe

Reposted from St petersburg Times: http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=37521

The authorities broke up the Fourth St. Petersburg LGBT Pride event on Saturday, June 29, arresting the activists who had been pelted with stones, plastic bottles filled with urine, eggs and smoke bombs, and punched by anti-LGBT protesters. The participants of the rally, organized by St. Petersburg LGBT rights organization Ravnopraviye (Equality) with support from the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality, face hefty fines or jail time of up to 15 days.

The rally was held soon after the Federal Assembly passed a national law banning “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” (originally “promotion of homosexuality”) in a visiting session in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, June 26, and a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the bill into the law, on Sunday, June 30.

From two to three hundred anti-LGBT protesters — including extreme nationalists and Orthodox radicals — gathered near the site of the event on the Fields of Mars, the memorial square in central St. Petersburg, waiting for the participants of the annual LGBT rights rally to arrive by 2:30 p.m., when the event was due to start. Large numbers of OMON riot police were also on location.

Dmitry Chunosov and Pavel Lebedev, two activists who were the first to arrive, were immediately attacked by two men, who punched and kicked them. The OMON riot police arrived and broke up the fight, arresting both LGBT activists and only one attacker, who wore a purple T-shirt with the Russian coat of arms on his chest and the word “Russia” on his back.

The anti-LGBT crowd included an Orthodox priest, several men wearing “Cossack” fur hats and nationalists Nikolai Bondarik and Andrei Kochargin, the latter known as a knife fighter and the author of the book “Man with an Axe.”

Attacks continued as demonstrators arrived and were admitted into a fenced off area by the police. Single anti-LGBT protesters managed to get into the enclosure and start fights from time to time throughout the rally, but most stayed behind the fence, shouting insults and throwing objects. Eggs were brought in ten-count containers and distributed to those wishing to throw them.

The police tended not to react to the behavior of anti-LGBT groups, even ignoring it when stones and bottles of urine hit some of the officers.

With a ten-minute delay, 50 to 60 LGBT protesters raised rainbow flags, placards and banners reading “Give our rights back,” “Are you sure you’re not bi?,” “This is promotion of tolerance,” “We love each other, what’s wrong with that?,” “What’s the difference who you are, if you’re a human being?”

Some placards were sarcastic, reading “Lesbians are Russia’s assets” (a humorous pun on a Gazprom slogan), “Sodomy unites” and “Sodom into each house.”

Holding a megaphone, white suit-clad organizer Yury Gavrikov and the other protesters shouted “Shame on the homophobes of St. Petersburg,” at the anti-LGBT crowd.

Less than 15 minutes into the rally, Gavrikov was approached by Nikolai Strumentov, an official of City Hall’s committee for law, order and security, with two senior police officers. Showing an A4 sheet filled with hard-to-read handwriting, Strumentov said that City Hall had ordered that the rally be stopped due to a complaint from a member of the public who saw violations of the local law forbidding the promotion of sodomy and pedophilia.

Strumentov passed the sheet of paper to Colonel Pyotr Chuiko, who then demanded that the rally end and that protestors leave within five minutes, threatening arrests. Using a megaphone, Gavrikov relayed the information to the protesters, who started chanting, “we won’t leave.”

According to Gavrikov, the sheet contained a complaint from a woman who wrote that she was walking on the Fields of Mars with her underage son and saw a group of people with rainbow flags “promoting non-traditional sexual orientation.”

No written orders from City Hall giving the grounds for why the rally was being stopped were presented, Gavrikov said.

A few minutes later, the OMON riot police brutally drove the protesters from the site, pushing and kicking them, throwing people on the ground and thrusting them onto a police bus. Protester Maxim Lysak, who had been hit on the back of his head with a stone and was bleeding, was detained despite the injury.

The counterdemonstrators then began to throw stones at the bus, shattering four windows and cutting the people inside, Gavrikov said.

Four activists who were not detained were surrounded and beaten outside the fenced off area by anti-LGBT radicals until the OMON police stopped the beating and took the activists into a bus allegedly to protect them. Later, however, the four were brought to a police precinct and charged with violations. None of the attackers were detained.

The 54 protesters taken to three different precincts were released within several hours after the police filed reports, but Gavrikov was held until Sunday afternoon as the organizer of the event. In the morning he was taken to court, which set a hearing for Thursday, July 4.

Eleven anti-gay demonstrators were reportedly arrested during the event.

Earlier, City Hall had declined all of the locations proposed by the organizers, referring to construction work on the sites or conflicts with other scheduled events. But the organizers used the new local law, signed by Governor Georgy Poltavchenko on March 19, which allows assemblies of up to 200 people to be held on a small site on the Fields on Mars without full authorization. To use the site, organizers are only required to inform City Hall, which then informs the police and other city services.

Although the authorities used the local law forbidding promotion of homosexuality to break up the rally, the LGBT activists were charged with failure to obey police orders and holding an unauthorized rally.

The police report claimed that that protester Alexei Sergeyev had participated in an unauthorized rally and discussed “a number of social and political issues,” later writing about it on Russia’s VKontakte social network. According to the report, he shouted “Down with police lawlessness,” “Freedom for Russia” and other slogans “aimed at forming corresponding public opinion.”

The report went on to claim that the police repeatedly demanded that protesters stop the rally and disperse via a public address system, saying that he failed to obey a police officer’s lawful orders and refused to enter the police bus of his own volition, causing officers to use physical force to get him on the bus.

The report set the time of the alleged offense at 3:30 p.m., even though the rally started at around 2:40 p.m. and by 3:08 p.m. the activists were already being held on the police bus. “Nothing is true — from the first word to the last — except for the location,” Sergeyev wrote. According to Gavrikov, all of the detained activists but him received similar reports.

“According to police reports, everyone took part in an unauthorized rally, while I took part in an authorized rally, which was stopped for an unclear reason,” Gavrikov said. “All these cases will fall apart in court.”

Speaking on Monday, police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said that the rally was stopped due to a ban issued by City Hall.

“The police received an official notice from the executive authorities stating that the given event was banned for violating city legislation,” Stepchenko told The St. Petersburg Times.

He said “several dozen” were detained at the rally for violating the regulations on public assemblies and failure to obey police orders, declining to give an exact number. According to Stepchenko, a number of people who committed what he called “unlawful acts” at the site were also detained and charged with disorderly conduct.


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