Russian Gay Rights Activists Besieged By Police and Arrested

Jim Burroway

June 1st, 2008

Banner hung from an apartment under siege across from Moscow City Hall

In the latest attempts to hold a Pride demonstration in Moscow, activists unfurled a banner from a private apartment across the street from Moscow City Hall on Sunday. Shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon, activists unfurled the six meter banner reading, “Rights to gays and lesbians — homophobia of mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted.”

Four unidentified activists were in the apartment, which was immediately besieged by Moscow police who spend the rest of the day trying to gain forced entry into the apartment without a court order. At one point, the police threatened to plant drugs on the four and charge them with false drug charges.

Shortly after 9:00 that evening, police were able to force their way into the apartment and arrest the four activists.

UK Gay News is facilitating a rolling update on their web site of continuing coverage from Russian bloggers. It’s a very riveting account. Bloggers also report that the Russian LGBT websites GayRussia.ru and Gay.ru were taken offline for unknown reasons. (Gay.ru appears to be back online.)

The action across from Moscow City Hall followed a cat-and-mouse game of chase between gay activists and Moscow police. LGBT activists, who had been keeping their plans secret, eluded police and staged a short protest in front of the Tchaikovsky statue at the Moscow music conservatory. Thirty-five people unfurled a banner and flag and shouted pro-gay slogans, and then left before police could arrive.

Protesters in front of the Tchaikovsky statute at the Moscow music conservatory

There are no other reports of arrests of pro-gay activists, although it has been reported that perhaps as many as fifteen anti-gay and nationalist protesters were also arrested.

It had been reported earlier that Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev ordered the Prefecture of the Central Administrative area of Moscow to authorize a Gay Pride demonstration. Since his election the the Russian presidency, there has been widespread speculation that he would be a mere figurehead president as former president Vladimir Putin takes the role as Prime Minister. It appears that Moscow city authorities have adopted a similarly dismissive view of Medvedev’s authority as well.

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