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May 19, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 20
 
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Planned Moscow Pride esclates confrontations
Planned Moscow Pride esclates confrontations
Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Despite a threat from Mayor Yuri Luzhkov that he "will not permit such parades," GLBT people are expected to stage Moscow's first gay-pride march May 27.

 

In line with local requirements, organizers will request a permit for the parade on May 15. They should receive an official response by the 17th.

 

If the permit is denied, organizers plan to make the final decision on whether to march just three hours before the parade's planned start time, during the closing session of a pride-week anti-homophobia conference.

 

"Over the last days, and despite the fact that our site www.gayrussia.ru/en was hacked and offline for 12 hours last Monday, we have received many messages of support from inside Russia of people -- gays and straights -- who said that initially they did not plan to come for the pride, but that after the recent events, they will definitely take part," said one of the organizers, Nikolai Alekseev.

 

"The Russian medias have been quite supportive to gays and lesbians in their reporting of the situation," Alekseev added. "People understand that this is a question of democracy. If the mayor of Moscow feels himself higher than the Constitution and bans a gay pride, then tomorrow ... which social group will be their target next?"

 

Mayor Luzhkov has said the march would "provoke society."

 

"I will not permit such parades," he said in February. "My philosophy is my negative attitude to these phenomena, as I believe them to be unnatural to the human nature."

 

Alekseev says pride organizers need support from abroad.

 

"If you want to help us, then, we hope to see you in Moscow soon," he said. "We don't need money in this fight. We need your presence with us."

 

As the parade date approaches, forces opposed to the march have escalated their tactics.

 

On April 30, around 300 religious extremists, skinheads and members of Russian nationalist organizations attacked people entering Moscow's Renaissance Event Club as it hosted the first in a new series of gay parties.

 

The protesters threw eggs, tomatoes, bottles and rocks while chanting "Pederasts go away" and "Shame on you, gays and lesbians."

 

It was "the most massive and aggressive action of homophobic extremists against sexual minorities in Russian history," Alekseev said.

 

People inside the club were evacuated by police in small groups and whisked away in special buses. There were no serious injuries.

 

"This was a very well-planned action," Alekseev noted. "Participants were brought to ... the club by buses and then taken back also by buses. The protest took place late at night before the national holiday, which caught police and media unprepared."

 

Some of the protesters told reporters they will target the pride parade in a similar fashion.

 

The next evening, about 100 demonstrators from the same groups visited another gay bar, Tri Obezyany.

 

Riot police arrested 39 of them for hooliganism after they tried to prevent patrons from entering the venue, shouted insults at those coming and going, and tossed eggs, fruit and bottles.

 

The subgroup of protesters affiliated with Christian churches waved crosses and icons and chanted "God is with us," the BBC reported.

 

Meanwhile, a new poll has found that 49 percent of Russians believe prominent Islamic mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin of the Russian Muslim Central Directorate should be prosecuted for saying in February that gays "should be bashed" if they march.

 

The scientific Levada-Centre/GayRussia.Ru poll questioned 1,600 people across the nation. Twenty-eight percent of those polled opposed prosecuting Tadzhuddin and 23 percent had no opinion.

 

"The majority [sic] of Russians consider the statements of Tadzhuddin directed towards homosexuals in general and participants of the gay pride totally inadmissible," Alekseev said.

 

Article 282 of Russia's criminal code bans inciting hatred toward a social group. Gay activists asked the General Prosecutor to open a criminal investigation of Tadzhuddin, but, on May 3, the office rejected the request, explaining, "The Quran is a legal document in Russia and it says that gays should be killed."

 

Activists have appealed the decision.

 

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