- 16 people arrested. Unknown number of injuries. Pride organizers say police stood by despite promising protection.
Far-right nationalists used pepper spray and threw eggs at LGBT+ people attending a peaceful Pride event in Odessa, Ukraine.
The anti-LGBT Traditions and Order group attacked the Odessa Pride 2020 event within 10 minutes of it starting on Sunday (30 August).
The total number or extent of injuries is unclear. However organizers say that out of one group of 30 activists, 10 were injured. Those 10 received burns from pepper gas or injuries from sticks, water bottles, paint, eggs and rocks that the neo-Nazis threw at them.
One 24-year-old suffered first degree chemical burns to ‘eyes, face and neck of the first degree’ from an unknown chemical spray. Reports indicate another victim was stabbed in the leg.
Meanwhile Odessa Pride says police were slow to act and failed to protect all but a handful of LGBT+ people.
Organizers had planned a different form of demonstration this year to deal with coronavirus. Rather than a mass march they decided to form a ‘chain of support’ with LGBT+ people wearing masks and gloves.
Moreover, they say they consulted with the police, ombudsman and city hall authorities to ensure they agreed to their plans.
However, this year also saw opposition to the Pride event. Organizers say opponents ‘intimidated activists on social networks’. And they say hate groups gathered information about LGBT+ campaigners to stalk and cyberbully them.
Meanwhile, the Tradition and Order group and others raised money online to oppose Odessa Pride.
Despite this, police assured Pride bosses that they had the situation under control.
How the far-right activists attacked
The venue for the Pride demonstration changed at the last minute at 3pm on Sunday. Organizers shifted it a little further along the picturesque Primorsky Boulevard to ‘Duma Square’.
However within minutes the nationalist opponents marched towards them waving ‘Tradition and Order’ flags.
Organizers say police didn’t separate the anti-LGBT+ demonstrators from the Pride-goers. Moreover, they claim officers didn’t answer calls for help.
Instead they surrounded a small group of Pride participants – mostly volunteers – ignoring others who needed protection.
Meanwhile two police suffered injuries and the neo-Nazis also threatened journalists reporting on the event.
Despite this, many LGBT+ campaigners bravely stood their ground for up to two hours before police helped them leave.
Arrests and charges
Primorsky Police Department said in a statement they had arrested 16 people for violating public order. Moreover, they confirmed ‘as a result of illegal actions of young men two policemen were taken to a medical institution’.
So far they say they have charged 12 people with offenses including hooliganism, disobeying a lawful police order and violence towards a law enforcement officer. They have also returned three young offenders to their parents. And they are continuing to investigate.
Meanwhile Odessa Pride has been supporting LGBT+ people lodge their complaints with the police.
Pride organizers said: ‘We encourage the National Police of Ukraine to prosecute the perpetrators for committing attacks on peaceful demonstrators, and to take action against “Tradition and Order” for hatred and inciting violence.’
They also want officials to ‘punish’ police for being ‘idle’ during the attacks.
Odessa Pride has happened without violence since 2018, although anti-LGBT+ opponents have always threatened it. But in the past, the counter-protests have been bizarre, rather than dangerous. In one case an Orthodox priest cleansed the city with holy water after the Pride.