City Hall Authorizes Gay Pride Event for First Time
Published: July 5, 2012 (Issue # 1716)
City Hall has for the first time ever authorized St. Petersburg Pride, an annual LGBT rights event, which will take place in Polyustrovsky Park in northwest St. Petersburg, the organizers said Wednesday. A march and stationary rally are scheduled to be held there from 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. on Saturday, July 7.
City Hall rejected all the sites proposed by local activists for the event, but did for the first time offer them an alternative location, in the same week that St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko was awarded an Honorary Rat anti-prize in Helsinki by a Finnish LGBT organization for signing the infamous local anti-“gay propaganda” law.
The administrations of the Central, Moskovsky, Admiralteisky and Vasileostrovsky districts turned down the organizers’ requests, although City Hall — which also rejected all the suggested locations — offered them the remote Polyustrovsky Park, dubbed “exile for the opposition,” Yury Gavrikov, chair of the LGBT rights organization Ravnopraviye (Equality) said Tuesday.
The organizers, who agreed to the site and hope to draw about 1,000 protesters, said in a statement that they want to draw the attention of society and the authorities to the issue of violations of civil rights in regard to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) people, including fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and right to assembly.
They are also planning to demand a legal ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as a ban on speeches inciting hatred, and an investigation into hate crimes committed against the LGBT community as a social group.
Neither City Hall nor the individual district administrations cited the recently introduced local law banning “the promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors” as grounds for rejection of the organizers’ proposed sites.
“Everything was within the framework of traditional reasons for rejection,” Gavrikov said.
“They were turned down either on the basis that the rights would be violated of people not taking part in the event, such as pedestrians who would have difficulty passing through the suggested location, or by heavy traffic in the suggested streets — even if it’s not so heavy on Saturday — so the rights of citizens, i.e. drivers not participating in the event, would be violated. These were the two main reasons given.”
City Hall refused to authorize the event on Palace Square, citing “maintenance work on access roads and the eastern wing of the Western Military District HQ.”
“All the rejections were put down to technical reasons; there were no refusals like last year, when for almost every suggested location, a children’s playground, children’s bike rental or children’s excursion were given as grounds for refusal,” Gavrikov said.
“There was nothing like that this year.”
St. Petersburg gay pride events have been held annually since 2010. None have been authorized so far, and as a result, activists have been detained and charged with violating the rules on holding public events and failure to obey a police officer’s orders.
According to the Moscow gay pride movement’s founder Nikolai Alexeyev, a number of Moscow gay activists are planning to take part in the St. Petersburg event.
“It is in the interest of the authorities to provide security for us and avoid tension on the streets,” Alexeyev said in a statement Monday.
On Monday, Gavrikov was officially declared a victim in legal proceedings over an attack on gay rights activists by eight men after the Day of Russia Without Putin opposition rally on June 12.
Meanwhile, the Finnish LGBT rights organization SETA awarded City Governor Poltavchenko with its anti-prize during the Helsinki Pride, Finland’s largest LGBT rights event, on Saturday.
The Honorary Rat went to Poltavchenko for signing the city’s notorious anti-gay law in March.
According to SETA, the organization wanted to draw attention to the human rights of LGBT people in the region neighboring Finland.
“If he had wished, Poltavchenko could have refused to sign this law, which contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation and international agreements signed by Russia,” SETA chair Outi Hannula said.
“We are concerned about the situation in St. Petersburg, especially seeing that St. Petersburg’s example was followed by other regions of Russia.”