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Russian gay festival defies police and thugs to show how strong LGBTIs really are

Russian gay festival defies police and thugs to show how strong LGBTIs really are

Thugs stormed their events and released gas. Police and politicians tried to shut them down. But the LGBTI people of St Petersburg have shown they won’t be silenced.

For 10 days, the LGBTI rights organization Coming Out St Petersburg has attempted – and succeeded – in holding an arts festival.

They faced repeat attacks from thugs, leaving 16 people hospitalized on opening night. They also allege the police pressured every single venue to cancel their events in an attempt to ruin the week.

While they had to cancel one event, they were not foiled and were able to put on the rest of the entire programme.

Polina Andrianova, assistant director of the gay rights group, told Gay Star News it was a ‘great success’.

On opening night (18 September), the co-author of the ‘gay propaganda’ ban in the Russian city Vitaly Milonov stormed the art gallery with other homophobic activists to help shut down the event.

Thugs are alleged to have sprayed ‘green paint’ and to have released gas which forced those who breathed it in to seek medical help.

They had already been forced to move to a second venue. Around an hour and a half before the opening, the gay activists received a call telling them their first choice for the venue had cancelled their contract.

The festival was forced to change venues multiple times across the week.

But on the closing (27 September), they were prepared. Around 15 thugs attempted to attack the event, but they had hired enough security to stop them from harming anyone.

‘We had openly published the venue, it was open to the public. While a few aggressors came, the security didn’t let them inside the club,’ Andrianova said.

‘We know for a fact the club experienced pressure from the police, somewhere around the afternoon, to try and get them to cancel. But they were there with us. We finished on a high note.’

She added: ‘I think the the amount of pressures that we faced this year is indicative that the festival is important. It is needed, if we incite so much hate then that means we must continue being open and providing information about LGBTI rights.

‘This aggression is coming from homophobic propaganda from the government. We must counteract this information coming from this government.

‘Despite the pressures, despite the opening night, the turnout was great. Everytime we had an open event, a lot of people came. 140 people came just for a lecture.

‘It just showes that we’re needed, and we need to show we can stand up to these pressures. It gives the entire community confidence. When people work with us, despite everything, it shows a huge strength about the LGBTI community.

‘We will continue for as long as physically possible.’