Eight activists were arrested in St Petersburg on ‘homosexual propaganda’ charges after holding a protest in defiance of the city’s gay pride ban.
Organizers of St Petersburg’s third pride parade ignored authorities’ decision to forbid a rally for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on Saturday (7 July), holding two pickets.
However, police broke up the protests, arresting three in a park to the north of the city and later five more outside the City Hall, where they unfurled a rainbow flag.
Yury Gavrikov, head of pride organizers Ravnopravie, told Gay Star News the campaigners are still being detained by the police and are due in court today (9 July) for breaking the city's anti-gay law which can be used to gag any public discussion of LGBT issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.
‘All of the participants were arrested and have been detained for two days now.
‘The picket outside the government building was small so you didn’t need permission to hold it.’
St Petersburg Pride organizers applied to authorities in different districts of the city to agree on a route for the event in advance and permission was granted for the event to take place at Poliustrov Park on the city’s outskirts.
However, on Friday (6 July) the authorities backtracked on this plan, claiming reports in the media that the event was a ‘gay pride’ were in conflict with their application which described it as a ‘march and a stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights’.
In the last two years, the non-governmental organization has submitted applications to the authorities to hold a pride in St Petersburg.
Different courts in St Petersburg have ruled against the authorities’ repeated refusal to let pride proceed and authorities have suggested on a number of occasions that Pride organizers hold the event in remote areas of the city, only to withdraw their agreement at the last minute.
In March 2012, a new law was adopted in St Petersburg, banning ‘propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors’ in the city.
Two months later, LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev was given a fine for such alleged ‘propaganda’, simply for holding up a banner quoting a famous Soviet actress who said ‘homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice’.
Since the adoption of the law, thousands of people all around the world, urging them to stop human rights abuses against LGBT people and to let the St Petersburg pride go ahead unhindered.
Last month, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Russia to explain how the country intended to uphold its obligations under human rights law after the adoption of similar ‘homosexuality propaganda’ laws in several regions of the country.