by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
LGBT activists defied authorities to hold an unauthorized Pride Parade in Moscow on May 29.
As in the five previous years, Moscow's homophobic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, banned the parade. In previous years, riot police attacked and dispersed the marchers.
This year, however, innovative tactics allowed the parade to go on without the harassment, beatings, and arrests that marred the previous Pride events.
"LGBT activists from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Minsk staged today the first-ever successful Gay pride in Moscow, despite the [government] ban," said Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev.
"Though the march was short, it happened. All the Russian media reported that for the first time in five years, the Gay parade took place in Moscow without [participants] being arrested by the police and assaulted by protesters."
Alekseev credited Pride organizers' security precautions for their success.
"Our military planning was why there were no arrests. We had to organize these parades under strict secrecy, we turned away anyone we didn't know," he said, claiming the authorities were attempting to infiltrate the organizers.
About 25 activists assembled without advance notice on The Arbat, a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes that is one of Moscow's main tourist venues.
They marched for about 10 minutes, holding banners and shouting slogans such as "No discrimination on the grounds of orientation."
Some observers waved and laughed, and there were no signs of hostility.
Police did not intervene to disperse the march, but when the demonstrators saw a line of riot police blocking the street ahead of them, they scattered.
A few hours later, a smaller group assembled in northwestern Moscow, again without advance notice.
They unfurled a 20-meter long rainbow flag and chanted "Russia without homophobes!" and "Equal rights, no compromise!"
Among this group were several international activists, including British Gay activist Peter Tatchell. Tatchell suffered permanent brain damage when he was beaten by Moscow police at the 2007 Pride march.
"Today it's like the Soviet era in Russia," Tatchell told Associated Press Television News. "Those who seek to hold a peaceful protest are being hunted by the police and the FSB security, like we were some kind of criminals or terrorists,"
Alekseev had applied for an official permit to hold the 2010 Pride Parade on May 17.
The application was made to the mayor's office as required by law, but once again Luzhkov announced he would ban Pride.
He had previously described the Pride Parade as "satanic happenings," and said he would not permit it to take place in Moscow under any circumstances.
Pride organizers said they would appeal the mayor's decision to the District Court, but they also began to plan for the un-permitted guerilla march, which they pulled off.
Alekseev did not rule out future legal action, noting a pending case before the European Court of Human Rights.
"We are ready to take all bans to the European Court of Human Rights, which this year is due to rule on the complaints lodged over the bans on the first three Moscow Gay Prides - in 2006, 2007, 2008," he said.
As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia would presumably be bound by the court's decision.
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