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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 25, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 04
Members of Voices4 removed from Russian Consulate by NYPD amidst LGBTQ+ crackdowns in Chechnya and Russia
Section One
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Members of Voices4 removed from Russian Consulate by NYPD amidst LGBTQ+ crackdowns in Chechnya and Russia

NEW YORK, NY [January 23, 2019] - Voices4, a non-violent and direct action advocacy group, and their partner group RUSA LGBT staged a protest Sunday, January 20, at 1pm, at the Russian Consulate. The Russian LGBT Network confirmed last week that about 40 LGBTQIA+ people have been imprisoned and at least 2 people murdered since December 2018.

Over one hundred protesters stood in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ Chechens affected by a new round of queer purges in Chechnya. Less than 24 hours after the protest ended, a message appeared on social media in Chechnya offering 300,000 rubles (about 4,500 USD) to anyone who incited violence against LGBTQIA+ people. The message asked people to kidnap, beat up, disrupt bars and meeting spaces and do 'everything except murder.'

As the vigil began, Voices4 members gathered across the street from the Russian Consulate. Attendees held candles and posters with messages of solidarity, including 'Queer people anywhere are responsible for queer people everywhere,' 'You are loved,' and 'We see you.' The visual demonstration reflected how all people must stand in solidarity with persecuted communities. After activist Adam Eli and Lyosha Gorshkov spoke, three members of Voices4 peacefully crossed the street and approached the steps of the Russian consulate, where they began to lay down flowers, a pride flag, electronic candles and a sign that read 'QUEER PEOPLE ANYWHERE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR QUEER PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.'

The purpose of this makeshift memorial was to bring the issue of Russia's compliance with the queer violence taking place in Chechnya and their own country right to their front door. An unidentified man emerged from the consulate and began to deconstruct the memorial while Voices4 members were still setting up. However he retreated inside once the NYPD arrived and began removing members.

The NYPD removed the materials and ordered the Voices4 members to leave, claiming 'this isn't our land,' referring to extraterritoriality status the Russian Consulate receives (meaning the building and the land surrounding it are governed by Russian, not American law).

'Something changed for me as I watched the man emerge from the Russian consulate and begin to take down our memorial. The genocide taking place in Chechnya often feels like an issue without a face - the violence takes place five thousand miles away, escaped survivors have to stay hidden and we never meet the perpetrators.

'The man from the consulate had been outside photographing us earlier and was clearly forewarned about the protest. By taking down the sign and making eye contact with us his actions affirmed what we already knew and said you are right to think your queer family is under attack and we have no interest in taking responsibility or stopping.'

ELLY QUOTE: 'These recent reports of the resurgence of violence against the LGBTQIA+community in Chechnya is a call to action for queer people all over the world. We must remain vigilant against these atrocities and push the international community to hold Kadyrov accountable and to recognize the Russian government's complicity in a genocide that is happening within its own borders.'

Earlier and across the street, Lyosha Gorshkov, an exiled queer professor and co-president of RUSA LGBT, spoke about the recent atrocities and genocide in Chechnya. He believes that more than 100 Chechens have been killed since December 2016.

Wyatt Harms then stood to read a statement from LGBT World Beside, an organization founded by refugees who survived the 'first wave' of LGBT persecution in Chechnya. The statement detailed purposeful violations towards LGBTQIA+ people in Chechnya and are now living in Europe. LGBT World Beside demanded that Russian authorities end persecution against LGBTQ people in Chechnya and investigate all crimes of past weeks. The organization also appealed to the world community and authorities in democratic states to not refuse LGBTQIA+ refugees from Chechnya.

Jesse Hepworth read a statement from a victim of imprisonment. The statement detailed the imprisonment and described torture via electric shock, beatings, and forced hard labor.

SOCIAL - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/voices4_/ - Twitter: https://twitter.com/voices4_ - WEBSITE - https://voices-4.com/

Courtesy of Voices4

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