Hundreds of Russian gay rights activists braved threats of violence to hold a peaceful protest in the city of St Petersburg today (17 May).
With around 200 armored policemen surrounding the group, there was one officer for nearly every single person participating in the rally.
The people gathered in a square holding placards calling for peace, love, diversity and tolerance.
It was to fight against Russia’s anti-gay laws, homophobia and pay tribute to all of the other countries celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).
After short speeches from the organizers and activists, rainbow balloons were released into the sky.
And even though the authorities banned a march in tribute to Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst, many still chose to wear fake beards to celebrate the drag queen singer and the ‘unstoppable’ fight for equality.
‘Thanks to the continued solidarity and collaboration within LGBT groups and the wider human rights community, and to the ombudsman and the police talking to each other and doing their job well, this time around we had peace at the rally,’ Polina Andrianova, a gay rights activist in Russia, said.
‘The real celebration will come, though, when an army of armored policemen will not be needed to surround a group of LGBT people who want to speak about love and peace.’
Vitaly Milonov, the infamous Russian lawmaker who co-sponsored the nationwide ‘gay propaganda’ law, tried to get the rally shut down.
Members of extreme right groups threw stones at the coaches taking participants to the protest.
One activist carrying a rainbow flag on the subway wrote on social media he had been punched in the face.
Thugs also threw eggs at the group of protestors in an attempt to provoke a fight, but it stayed peaceful.
Following the event, one protester said: ‘Coming to an LGBT action always sobers you up to the realities of our life in Russia today.’