Russia: Gay Groups Continue to Fight Unfair Treatment
Reposted from The St.Petersburg Times: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=36976
The small village of Novosyolki, southwest of St. Petersburg, has become City Hall’s favorite site to send St. Petersburg’s LGBT rights activists to rally, as the organizers of another protest planned this week found out when they were told that 15 sites they had suggested within the city were unavailable for their assembly. Meanwhile, a local court found no violations in City Hall’s continued refusals to let LGBT activists rally in the center.
On Monday, City Hall rejected a permit for the Democratic St. Petersburg movement to rally in the city against the national bill forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors, which is about to be accepted by the State Duma in its second hearing. It was passed in the first hearing on Jan. 25. Similar local laws have already been enacted in St. Petersburg as well as in ten other regions across Russia.
As the law on public assemblies requires the administration to suggest an alternative site if the one suggested by the organizers is unavailable, the organizers of the protest that had been planned for Sunday, Feb. 24 were told to hold it in Novosyolki.
“I didn’t go there, but I checked it on the map; it’s beyond the Ring Road, and takes two hours to get to from St. Petersburg,” said Natalya Tsymbalova, an activist with Democratic St. Petersburg and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality.
“There is an aerodrome, a dump and a cemetery there. It looks like they have found the most remote location which is still officially part of the city.”
According to Tsymbalova, City Hall first dismissed five suggested sites last week, saying that other events were scheduled to be held at the first four, while large-scale road maintenance works would be held at the fifth. She said the organizers had not been given the reasons for the alleged unavailability of the ten other suggested sites, which include Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Square, as well as smaller locations where other rallies are usually authorized.
Tsymbalova said the third application, containing five other suggested locations, would be submitted to City Hall shortly.
“We’re running out of time and there’s already little hope,” she said.
“They look determined not to let us go anywhere but Novosyolki.”
As the planned date of the rally approaches, chances of the rally eventually being authorized are growing slimmer.
“If they still don’t let us have a rally, we have an idea to hold a kind of flash mob by walking around all the rejected sites to see what is really happening at them on Feb. 24; to see if there are some real events taking place there or if we have been given the runaround, so we could use it in court,” Tsymbalova said.
“We’ll definitely file a complaint about this absolutely insolent and mocking rejection and we hope to win in the city court or the Supreme Court, because it’s obviously unlawful.”
On Monday, the Smolninsky District Court dismissed a complaint by LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out), which was given Novosyolki as the only available site to hold a protest against the anti-gay law ahead of its first hearing at the State Duma in December.
According to Ksenia Kirichenko, the coordinator of Vykhod’s legal aid program, a representative of City Hall described the village as the most appropriate location for such an event.
“Novosyolki is becoming a favorite tool for effectively banning LGBT rights rallies,” Kirichenko said in a news release.
In 2011, City Hall redirected the organizers of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride event to Novosyolki. Instead, an attempt to hold the rally was undertaken in the city center on Senatskaya Ploshchad, beside the Bronze Horseman monument, and resulted in arrests and fines.
According to Kirichenko, Vykhod will appeal the Vyborgsky District Court’s ruling.