Despite interruptions, Kyiv holds first ever gay pride
There were a handful of minor disturbances, with around a dozen arrests, but Kyiv’s LGBT community managed to hold its first ever gay pride parade in the city on Saturday, May 25.
The Equality March was held in an area outside the city center after municipal authorities last week banned the group from holding the event at its originally planned Lva Tolstoho location.
About 50 people from around Ukraine and some from as far away as Sweden and Germany chanted and paraded down a narrow pathway near Pushkin Park and Shuliavska metro station, carrying rainbow flags and signs with slogans such as “LGBT rights = People’s rights.”
The event was planned in secret this year, with organizers requiring participants and media to register using an online form that required them to submit names and phone numbers of gay-friendly people they knew who could vouch for their character.
Text messages were sent to the phones of participants and media early on the morning of the event, telling them when and where to meet.
Dozens of buses parked along Victory Avenue brought more than 300 police in riot gear to the event to keep anti-gay protestors from attacking the march’s participants.
Still, about 10 people managed to infiltrate the march, ripping banners from the hands of marchers and shouting violent anti-gay slogans. Police quickly detained them and dragged them into holding vans nearby. In one case, a man threw a firecracker into the march. No one was injured as a result, and the man was quickly nabbed by police.
After marching down a stretch of sidewalk about 300 meters long, parade participants slipped through an iron gate and boarded buses that would take them to a safe location.
In all, organizers told media at the conclusion of the event that they were happy with the outcome.
Members from other LGBT communities also took part in the march. At least 10 people from the German city of Munich, a Kyiv Pride 2013 partner, stood side-by-side with members of Kyiv’s LGBT community and held banners that read “Munich Greets Sister-City Kyiv.”
Wieland and Uwe, a gay married couple from Munich who came to march in Kyiv, but wouldn't reveal their last names for fear of repercussions, said they were proud to be a part of the event.
“Gay people live freely and openly in Germany, and we hope that soon they can lively openly in Ukraine,” Wieland said. Asked whether he felt unsafe during the march, he said he was put at ease by the amount of police present.
His partner, Uwe, said he was proud to partake in the first-ever event of its kind here.
“We think it’s important to help the human rights movement here,” he said.
The two were accompanied by Vice Mayor of Munich Hep Monatzeder, who told the Kyiv Post that he came to the parade to show his support for human rights and Ukraine’s LGBT community.
While he was disappointed about the event being moved out of the city center, he admitted that it could have been dangerous to hold it there, and that he felt safe at the alternative location.
“(The police) have done a really good job today of organizing and watching over us,” he said. “Pride will go on. Maybe in another situation we would have done this in the middle of the city. But we can show here what human rights mean. This will start a discussion. This is the first stone we throw, and then comes a bigger one that changes the way people think.”
Not unlike Ukraine, he explained, “Germany started off in a small way. Now we have a big parade every year, and even marchers in the beginning who were against the idea of the parade now are a part of it.”
Not everyone was as convinced by the authorities conduct, though. Zafire Vrba, who came from Sweden to participate in the march, said he thinks the city’s excuse for banning the parade in the city center was simply a convenient excuse for it to hide behind.
“At at least we have another spot (to march),” he told the Kyiv Post. “I’m just happy we’re going to finally march.”