Sixteen people have been hospitalized after the opening of an LGBTI arts festival in St Petersburg yesterday (18 September).
Thugs are alleged to have sprayed ‘green paint’ and to have released gas which forced those who breathed it in to seek medical help.
Vitaly Milonov, the co-author of the ‘gay propaganda’ ban in the Russian city, stormed the art gallery with other homophobic activists to help shut down the event.
LGBTI organization Coming Out St Petersburg, as well as 40 other volunteers, had worked tirelesly for five months to ensure the arts event was a success.
But an hour and a half before the opening, Polina Andrianova told Gay Star News they were forced to move to a different venue.
She alleged the owner of the building had forced the space to break the contract, and the Coming Out group had to change the venue, installations, sound equipment and direct all the guests to another space.
But the anti-gay thugs found them.
‘There were 20 agressors, and the security guys that we hired blocked them from entering,’ Andrianova told GSN.
‘They proceeded to spray the doors – two entrances – with this horrific green stuff. They also sprayed some form of gas – it left a really bad, putrid scent. Today we learned 16 people were hospitalized today from breathing this thing in.’
Andrianova believes Milonov may have left immediately before the lawbreaking began. But she says the deputy of St Petersburg comes to all of their events, any street rally, to try and shut them down. ‘He seems to enjoy the PR.’
But her problems haven’t ended.
The majority of the venues that Coming Out have contracts with are breaking them at the last minute, essentially shutting down the entire festival.
‘We’re trying to do what we can do. It feels horrible. This is a great event, it is a celebration of LGBT community, celebrating our rights, our partnerships, our common work with other human rights activists,’ Andrianova said.
‘It’s not happening very well this year…The message is clear: the authorities, the deputies, they don’t want us in public spaces. They want us out of the public spaces and into gay bars – underground.’
Asked to give a message to Milonov and the anti-gay lawmakers, she said: ‘He’s really on the wrong side of history and he’s working so hard to make a group of people who have done nothing wrong – great people – feel miserable, feel like second-class citizens, and that’s where he’s putting his energy. I feel sorry for him. I feel like one day he will be sorry that this is how he spent his better years. ‘