Coming Out Day Ends in Fights, Arrests
Published: October 17, 2013 (Issue # 1782)
LGBT rights activists were prevented from holding an authorized Coming Out Day event on Saturday and were harassed and beaten by anti-gay protesters and arrested by the police. Police said a total of 67 people were arrested on both sides during disturbances at the site on the Field of Mars allocated by City Hall for demonstrations. Human rights activists said 86 people were detained.
Despite the massive presence of OMON riot police, about 50 LGBT rights protesters were met by a more than 200-strong anti-gay crowd who blocked the entrance to the site in central St. Petersburg where the rally was due to be held.
The counter-demonstrators, who came to the site in advance of the event, included men wearing priests’ vestments, a group of men in military uniforms presented as “Cossacks,” alleged Airborne Troops veterans in paratroopers berets and striped shirts, skinheads and football fans. Led by nationalist and knife-fighting expert Andrei Kochergin and men wearing Orthodox priest robes, the crowd sang hymns and prayed, and was addressed by speakers who urged them to stop the LGBT rights activists from holding their rally. One speaker said he was representative of Russian nobility from Paris and came to support anti-gay activists in their fight.
At one point the crowd was addressed by Tanai Cholkhanov, a speaker of the Islamic faith, who described LGBT people as “possessed by shaitan” and as people whose “hearts have darkened.” He was hailed by Kochergin, who said that Russian Orthodox and Muslim believers shared the same traditional values.
A man in Orthodox priest clothes said that homosexuals were sick people suffering from a brain disorder, to which Kochergin said they should be cured “with electricity.”
“Punch them in the liver, and the cerebral cortex will be restored,” he said.
Kochergin’s Internet postings revealed that the alleged Cossacks were brought from Moscow by one of the men dressed as priests, Dmitry Nenarokov. In real life, Nenarokov was reported to be a physical education teacher at a Federal Security Service school in Moscow.
Unlike the Sept. 6 protest, held during the G20 summit, police did not fence the site to secure the passage of the activists. As the LGBT rights protesters arrived at around 1:30 p.m., as scheduled, they found the path to the site blocked by anti-gay protesters, some of whom harassed them and told them to leave.
One of the most active anti-gay protesters wore a stylized Swastika around his neck and identified himself as a “Rodnover,” a Slavic neo-paganist. He said he came more than 1,500 kilometers from Krasnodar in the south of Russia to “stop sodomy.”
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