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Posts for November, 2013

Russian LGBT Film Festival Opening Delayed By Bomb Threat

Jim Burroway

November 22nd, 2013

St. Petersburg’s sixth annual Side by Side (Бок о Бок) Film Festival opened yesterday after about a two hour delay due to a bomb hoax. QueerRussia reports:

The  grand festival opening scheduled for the evening  of November, 21 is disrupted. A call of a bomb threat in the “Warshavsky Express” cinema is delaying the opening ceremony and screening of the first film of the festival. With all guests being evaquated, police began checking up the building.

About 200 guests arrived at the opening. Aggressive opponents of LGBT also gathered near the cinema, but police is holding them back. After checking, the building is still going to host the first screening, Rosbalt reports.

Earlier this day, a regular guest at LGBT events and concurrently the head of the St. Petersburg ” Narodniy Sobor” antigay group Anatoly Artyukh attacked LGBT activist Kirill Kalugin. “I was in a coffee shop at the “Warshavsky Express ” drinking coffee when I was attacked by Artyukh. He snatched a mug from my his hands, trying to pour it over me and to pull the earring out of my ear , grabbed my hands and spitted on me . Now I’m in the 77 police station. Artyukh said I was trying to assult him”, Kirill told Rosbalt.

The film festival began after the police cleared the shopping center. Organizers say they are ” in contact with police chiefs in order to oversee the safety and order at events.” On November 30, Side by Side will feature a special screening of the film Milk, followed by a discussion with director Gus Van Sant, producer Bruce Cohen, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Just last month, Side by Side won an important court battle when the City Court of St. Petersburg overturned two previous court decisions which found the film festival guilty of failing to register as a “foreign agent.”

Putin Signs Anti-Gay Law Amid Clashes in St. Petersburg

Jim Burroway

June 30th, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure which effectively bans all advocacy for LGBT people:

The law introduces fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($166) for citizens who disseminate information “directed at forming non-traditional sexual setup” in minors or which may cause a “distorted understanding” that gay and heterosexual relations are “socially equivalent”, the publication showed.

The fines go up to as much as 200,000 rubles ($6,600) for officials if such “propaganda” is disseminated through the media or internet. Foreigners will not only be fined but face administrative arrest up to 15 days and eventual deportation, the law says. Organisations face fines of up to 1 million rubles and shutdown of their activity for 90 days.

Meanwhile, a pro-gay Pride march in St. Petersburg was violently broken up by police and Russian nationalists:

Media reports estimated that several dozens of LGBT activists came to the Field of Mars (Marsovo Pole) in the city’s downtown to rally for gay people’s rights in Russia. The event was attended by some 200 of anti-gay activists urging to ban the rally and throwing eggs at their opponents.

“After the complaints of local residents, representatives of the local administration and the police warned the protestors that their protest was illegal and asked them to leave,” a police spokesperson said. Police officers then broke up the protest and arrested dozens of gay rights activists, the spokesman added.

The Russian LGBT network said on its Facebook page Saturday that several activists were beaten up by their opponents during the event, and more than 50 were held by the police. Eight of the anti-gay activists were detained as well, the police said. One of the police officers was injured while trying to detain an anti-gay activist, local Fonatanka.Ru news website reported.

The AP reports that “About 200 nationalists also gathered at the rally, chanting slogans such as ‘Sodomy will not pass,’ and throwing eggs and rocks at the gay-rights activists, who numbered about 40.”

Venice disowns sister city

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2013

I’ve never really understood at the whole “sister city” concept. As best I can tell, it’s as if you grew up and discovered that your grammar school pen pal was actually a municipality. Really? What on earth did Hoboken want with my lemon-bar recipe?

But, in any case, there certainly are a lot of them and cities tend to take them seriously.

So in that spirit, I share the news that Venice – the City of Canals – (not Venice, CA, the City of What Were You Thinking?) is breaking off cultural relations with St Petersburg – City of Lunatics – because of the Russian city’s legislation curbing gay rights.

Since 2006 Venice and St. Petersburg have engaged in “cultural and other exchanges”, but Venice finally said that if Pete’s gunna be hating the gay, then no more.

The city council invoked Venice’s “history, international prestige and conscience” to refrain from cultural exchanges as long as anti-gay laws are in place.

17 Arrested Under St. Petersburg “Don’t Say Gay” Law

Jim Burroway

May 1st, 2012

According to the St. Petersburg, Russia web site Coming Out, seventeen LGBT advocates were arrested for carrying rainbow flags as part of the May 1st civil rights and freedom march on Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main boulevard. The LGBT advocates were participating in the city-sanctioned march as part of a larger group of democratic and civil society gropus. According to Coming Out:

5 minutes into the march, police requested removal of rainbow flags. When activists refused, they were forcefully detained and are now facing charges of “propaganda of homosexuality” and non-compliance with the police. One activist was detained for holding a sign “homophobia is illegal.”

17 activists are still being held by the police. Among those detained are Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, Mikhail Belodedov of Coming Out, Sergey Kondrashov, lawyer and straight ally, and Elena Popova, director of St. Petersburg organization “Soldier’s mothers”, defending rights of draftees.

The so-called “gay propaganda law” bars groups, publications, events and other so-called “promotion” of LGBT rights, was passed in St. Petersburg in February. The Russian Parliament and Moscow City Council may take up similar proposals.

St. Petersburg Legislature Passes Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

February 29th, 2012

Via the Russian LGBT web site Anti-Dogma comes word (Google Translate) comes word that the legislature of St. Petersburg, Russia, gave its approval on the third reading of a bill prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality. As Anti-Dogma put it:

For educated people, it is obvious that any propaganda of homosexuality does not exist in nature. This means that the law is needed for something else. In particular, for the creation of obstacles to human rights organizations.

The same legislative speculators who want to curry favor with the authorities, with the same zeal can take, and for other minority religious, ethnic, etc. And those who now applauds “the triumph of traditional values,” very soon may be surprised to find himself among the “forbidden”.

According to Anti-Dogma, twenty-nine deputies voted for the bill, five against, and one abstained. According to earlier reports, the bill prohibits organizations and individuals from engaging in “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” he bill has a separate but identical provision banning advocacy for pedophilia, thus equating it with homosexuality in the public debate. During the bill’s second reading earlier this month, the penalties were significantly increased. Individuals convicted under the law will be fined 5,000 rubles (US$173) and organizations will be fined 500,000 rubles (US$17,285), a figure which will effectively shut down St. Petersburg’s LGBT organizations. Similar measures have been enacted in Ryazan, Kostroma and Arkhangelsk Oblasts.

St. Petersburg Russia Approves Second Reading of “Ban-The-Gay” Bill

Jim Burroway

February 8th, 2012

The St. Petersburg city legislature passed the second of three readings today a bill which prohibits “public actions aimed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgender minors” and the “uncontrolled dissemination of public information” including “misconceptions about the social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional marriage.” On the second reading, the bill approved today includes fines that are significantly higher than those provided in the original bill. Individuals convicted under the law will be fined 5,000 rubles (US$167) and organizations will be fined 500,000 rubles (US$16,698), a figure which will effectively shut down St. Petersburg’s LGBT organizations including a prestigious international film festival. The vote was 31-6.

Russian Deputy PM Suggests “Homosexual Propaganda” Bill Can Be Made Federal

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2011

The Interfax News service reports that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has suggested that the proposed bill in St. Petersburg which would ban the “promotion” of homosexuality could be made a federal law:

“Probably, we should consider this topic at the federal level,” Kozak told a press conference in St. Petersburg on Friday. Any propaganda regarding non-conventional sexual relations is “an abominable thing to do,” he said.

The bill also includes a ban on the promotion of pedophilia — is there a problem with this in Russia? — and therefore uncritically links homosexuality with pedophilia in the public debates taking place over the bill.

St. Petersburg City Legislature Punts Anti-Gay Bill Vote

Jim Burroway

November 30th, 2011

In a surprising development, LGBT advocate Polina Savchenko of St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization Coming Out reports that the city legislature completed its session today without voting on the bill which would ban “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” With this delay, the bill will not be adopted before the elections scheduled for this weekend. The danger that the bill could resurface in the next government, however, remains very real, according to the statement from Coming Out.

St. Petersburg Anti-Gay Bill Delayed One Week

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2011

The proposal in St. Petersburg, Russia, to ban all advocacy for LGBT rights was expected to sail through its second reading and become law today, but The Moscow News now reports that the bill has been delayed a week “to clarify all legal definitions connected to this law.”

Russian Cities Weigh Laws Banning LGBT Advocacy

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2011

Two Russian regions have already passed laws prohibiting all forms of LGBT advocacy, and now the city governments of St. Petersburg and Moscow are considering similar measures.

Earlier this year, Ryazan and Arkhangelsk oblasts passed laws banning what they call “gay propaganda,” which include public speech and advocacy on behalf of gay and transgender people. The St. Petersburg proposal includes a fine of up to $1,600 for organizations engaging in “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” The fine for individuals would be about $100.The bill doesn’t define what constitutes “public actions,” leaving LGBT advocates concerned that the law would be yet another tool for police to use to crack down on gay pride events. The bill has a separate but identical provision banning advocacy for pedophilia, thus equating it with homosexuality in the public debate. The bill, which is backed by the ruling United Russia party, passed the first of three required readings last week with a 27-1 vote, with one abstention.

Shortly after the bill passed its first reading in St. Petersburg, a Moscow-based newspaper reports that a similar bill is in the works in the Moscow Duma. There is also talk that Russian state legislators may take up similar measures. One delegate says the proposal however would not go far enough:

If this [law against gay propaganda] is meant for our state’s security, this is all good. Only the people who break that law should not be fined;instead, they need to receive punishment under the criminal code”, said deputy Ekaterina Lahova.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 under President Boris Yeltsin.

Slavic Pride Attacked By Police, 14 Arrested

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2011

Despite the ban imposed by St. Petersburg city hall, Russian LGBT advocates held a Slavic Pride demonstration near the monument to Peter the Great in central St. Petersburg. When Pride participants arrived at the monument at 2:00 p.m. local time, they were met by about two dozen militia police. Within minutes, police broke up the march and arrested eleven Russians and three Belarusians.

Gay activist Alexander Sheremetev attacked by thug during Slavic Pride in St. Petersburg today.

One LGBT advocate Alexey Kiselev, was reportedly beaten by police at the station. Another advocate, Alexander Sheremetev, was beaten by a skinhead. He has been taken to a hospital under police custody. The attacker was arrested and later released, but the LGBT advocates who were arrested will being held overnight. There is no word on his condition. They are being charged with organizing an illegal action and resisting a police order.  This second charge could lead to a 15-day prison sentence. It appears most of the activists are being held in the same cell and were able to keep their cell phones. They are tweeting and texting from inside their cell. But there is growing concern over trans rights activist Anna Komarova, who is being kept in a separate cell without access to a mobile phone.

Russian Court Rules St. Petersburg Must Allow Pride Marches

Jim Burroway

October 13th, 2010

A court in St. Petersburg ruled this week that Russia’s second largest city cannot prohibit Gay Pride marches.

St. Petersburg city officials, like those in Moscow, had repeatedly banned Pride marches. When city officials refused to allow a march to go ahead last June, organizers took the city to court. The court ruling gave city officials until November 1st to change its direction and allow organizers to conduct a march.  City officials say they will comply with the order.

Moscow LGBT advocate Nikolai Alekseev said that they had already experienced one small victory in Moscow last week, when they held the first city-sanctioned gay rally with police protection following the firing of Moscow’s anti-gay mayor Yuri Luhzkov by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. On Thursday, a Moscow Appeals Court is expected to hold a hearing on the ban on this year’s Moscow Pride, and the European Court of Human Rights is also expected to issue a ruling on the Moscow ban soon.

Russian Police Arrest LGBT Advocates at St. Petersburg Pride

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2010

Defying a ban on gay rights marches by city authorities, several LGBT advocates were arrested at a Pride demonstration in front of the State Hermitage Museum. According to Reuters, two to three dozen advocates showed up in front of the famous landmark with banners and chanted, “Homophobia is the country’s shame.” At least five people were arrested (six, according to the Associated Press).

St. Petersburg authorities had denied permission to hold a Pride demonstration for five different locations. In order to try to get around the ban, LGBT advocates used stealth tactics similar to those used in Moscow last month in an attempt to avoid the police. The media were not informed until the very last minute.

Immediately following the march’s breakup, a small group of ultra-right activists arrived at the square to attack the protesters. A small number of them were arrested for “hooliganism” as well.

LGBT Russians Peacefully March in St. Petersburg, other cities

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2009
Rainbow Flash Mob in St. Petersburg (Valentin Ilyushin/Fontanka.ru)

Rainbow Flash Mob in St. Petersburg (Valentin Ilyushin/Fontanka.ru)

In sharp contrast to yesterday’s aggressive breakup of a peaceful Slavic Pride march in Moscow by riot police, a “Rainbow flash mob” of between 100 and 250 LGBT people and supporters marched peacefully today in St. Petersburg.

The flash mob gathered at Ligovsky Avenue and walked from there to Nevsky Prospect, remaining on the sidewalk and off of the street. Police reportedly gathered to monitor the situation but made no moves to hinder the march. Once the group reached Nevsky Prospect, they released hundreds of balloons into the air with notes attached.

Balloon release in Chelyabinsk (Anti-Dogma)

Balloon release in Chelyabinsk (Anti-Dogma)

There were much smaller balloon releases in other cities and towns across Russia, all coordinated to take place at 2:00 p.m. local time. In the southern Ural mountains city of Chelyabinsk, a man holding a half dozen colorful balloons walked down the rain-soaked streets of the main commercial district. His balloons stood out on the drab gray afternoon and attracted the attention of a couple of women. Impressed with the “positive energy” of the colorful balloons and the message of equality and freedom for LGBT people they represented, the two agreed to lend their support and helped to release the balloons.

Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment these balloon releases achieved was the widespread favorable coverage in the Russian press. The balloon releases were organized as part of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

Meanwhile back in Moscow, all of the participants arrested in yesterday’s march have been released. Six, including march organizer Nikolai Alekseev, were held overnight and released at noon today.

[Hat tip: Anti-Dogma]

“Day Of Silence” Events Staged In Russia

Jim Burroway

May 6th, 2008

Day of Silence

From UK Gay News comes word of the first Day of Silence held last weekend in three cities across Russia. Day of Silence events were held on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Novokuznetsk and Yaroslavl. Two participants in St. Petersburg were assaulted following a rally and skinheads attacked participants in Novokuznetsk. Nevertheless, organizers counted the events a rousing success.

BrochureSt. Petersburg officials had initially given permission for a public Day of Silence demonstration, but this permission was rescinded a few days before the event. In response, the organizers scaled back their plans and staged individual protests in St. Petersburg’s Chrenyshevskiy Park since individual demonstrations don’t require approval by authorities. For two hours, the participants stood silently with a banner that read, “I am silent to be heard.” Their mouths were taped shut as they handed out flyers to passersby.

According to one report, the Day of Silence participants were guarded by ten policemen during the demonstration. The rally in the park went off without incident, but two of the participants were attacked afterwards by three assailants as they made their way to a nearby café. Igor Petrov, one of the Day of Silence organizers, and Ignat Fialkovskiy, the press secretary of the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Side by Side, suffered kicks and bruises requiring medical treatment. Formal complaints have been filed with the police.

Day of Silence participants in Novokuznetsk
In Novokuznetsk in central Russia, twenty volunteers responded to a “flash mob” appeal sent through social networks. Despite the bad weather, organizers were pleased with the response. However a group of skinheads attacked several participants, injuring one young man.

The organizer of the group from Yaroslavl, 160 miles northeast of Moscow reported that nine people took part in their “flash mob.” No problems were reported there.

Despite the problems encountered in Novokuznetsk and St. Petersburg, Russian Day of Silence organizers consider the actions a rousing success:

We were able to achieve the most important thing — the word about the problem of emotional harassment and violence, discrimination and intolerance based on sexual orientation and gender identity reached many people, while the attacks on the participants of the event in St. Petersburg and Novokuznetsk confirmed the relevance of the problem.

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Hat tip: UK Gay News