Police in St Petersburg arrested 11 LGBTI activists during the annual Day of Silence protest.
Russian activists gathered at Gostiny Dvor on Wednesday (17 April) before police began making arrests, including Daniil Maksimenko
The activists then began to walk in the direction of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. They sealed their mouths with red tap but otherwise held no symbols. Police made more arrests – taking 11 people into custody in total. According to the organizers, 40-50 people participated in total.
A person at the protest told OVD-Info: ‘The police are going to detain everyone who walked with their mouths sealed. I heard what commands they gave.’
He also blamed a right-wing activists for calling the police.
Some of the demonstrators were minors
Authorities held the demonstrators on a police bus before taking them to the 28th Police station. Solidarity of St Petersburg reported that there were four minors detained. All were released to their parents.
Taking place every year, the Day of Silence is a global student-led event to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTI people.
Heterosexuals and LGBT Alliance for Equality organized the protest in the Russian city. They are an organization who ‘unite to say “NO!” to the discrimination and harassment of our fellow citizens, friends and relatives’, according to their Facebook.
Aleksei Sergeev from Heterosexuals and LGBT Alliance for Equality told Gay Star News: ‘Our goal was to attract the attention of our society to the problems of LGBT [people] in Russia. Unfortunately, the situation with freedom of assemblies in Russia is bad for LGBT.
‘After the federal “anti-gay propaganda” law, a space for public discussion about LGBT is poor, and LGBT public action and the internet are our only opportunities.’
They released a statement onto their Facebook page: ‘We are proud for all who came out today at Nevsky Avenue of St Petersburg. Yes, it’s about 40 people. Who did not sleep, was not afraid, aware of all the risks.
‘The Day of Silence has been hit by many Russian and foreign media. And hope for the future is connected with you.’
The police say the group violated the rules of the rally (part 8 of Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code). However, the demonstrators claim the arrests are illegal. This is because they were engaged in single picket protest, which doesn’t need government permission to exist.
So-called gay propaganda law
Russia currently has a ‘gay propaganda’ law. Adopted in 2013, it currently bans the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality to people under the age of 18.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled the law is discriminatory and encourages homophobia.