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Protesters Left in Peace at Annual LGBT Rally

Published: July 30, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • Protesters were forced to stay in a fenced-in area on the Field of Mars.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / for SPT

  • Kirill Kalugin holds a rainbow flag that was torn during last years rally.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / for SPT

One activist and one photographer were arrested at the fifth annual St. Petersburg LGBT Pride rally on Saturday, July 26. Nevertheless, the one-hour rally against the discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Russia went ahead more peacefully than ever before in the rallys history, neither being attacked by anti-gay crowds nor shut down by the police. It has also been described as the lengthiest protest in the history of the citys LGBT movement.

About 100 people attended the rally, which was held in a small fenced site on the Field of Mars in central St. Petersburg. Under a recent law, the site was designated by City Hall for holding small public assemblies. Dozens of police vehicles and hundreds of the OMON riot police were stationed at and near the fenced site, with officers searching bags and confiscating water and sharp objects as participants entered the site.

In fact, last year, despite an agreement with City Hall, the police shut down the rally and arrested more than 60 activists, who had been earlier pelted with stones, eggs and smoke bombs by some 200 anti-gay protesters. A number of LGBT activists were assaulted and beaten during or after the rally. This year, however, only a handful of anti-gay protesters showed up.

Despite this years event being seen by many as an achievement, there were still some at the rally protesting against the authorities for only allowing the event to be held in a fenced site. Speaking at the rally, activist Kirill Kalugin who held a rainbow flag that had been torn by anti-gay attackers at last years protest said he had the right to express his opinion elsewhere as he was a free man in not a very free country.

Personally, its not necessary to have some date and the Field of Mars to take to the street with a rainbow flag, Kalugin told The St. Petersburg Times this week. I am not going to be guided by the wishes of City Hall or anyone else when I plan a protest, he said.

Theyve created this cell for us, and they dont let us go anywhere else. I understand the organizers, who want to hold a peaceful rally, but they should also understand me when I say that I am getting tired of walking like a flock into this paddock. There has been criticism that I demand respect, while not respecting the police, City Hall, the state, but I dont find it necessary to show respect for those people that dont have any respect for me and pass laws against me in my own country.

If City Hall permits some rally, it means it sees it as safe and not scary, because it controls it. I dont want the state to get into my business and decide for me where I am allowed to stand and where I am not.

Protester Yevgeny Prokopenko was arrested this year after an exchange with police officers, who claimed that his placard reading Sodomy is sweeter than honey violated the national law prohibiting the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations with minors. Prokopenko explained that his placard was a protest against the law and he was then taken to a police vehicle after refusing to put it away.

It was an anti-homophobic message, said Prokopenko. It implied that non-traditional sexual relations were not bad but quite the opposite. I hoped a little that I would be charged with this crime, so that I had an opportunity to confront the law in court because I dont agree with it. Prokopenko was told he would be called when a hearing is appointed.

Photographer Alexei Belozyorov was also detained. Speaking this week to the St. Petersburg Times, he said that a man protested against him taking photographs of the minors without their parents consent. According to Belozyorov, the police held him on the pretext that he had no identification and let him go three hours later without pressing charges.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 21


Learn more about Russian labor laws at Labor Law Seminar 2014 at the Courtyard by Marriott St. Petersburg Center West Pushkin Hotel this morning at 166 Kanala Griboyedova. Sponsored by Baker and McKenzie and the Pepeliaev Group, the event begins at 9 a.m. and will discuss amendments to existing laws, employment terms, risks of termination and other pressing matters.


Educate yourself about educational careers at Education and Career XXI November 2014, a two-day fair hosted at Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island that welcomes students and educators alike to develop relationships between scholarly institutions and learn more about the educational market in Russia and abroad.



Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the clubs website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the clubs merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at todays Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Womens Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the citys international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain. The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their Industrial St. Petersburg Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the Business With China forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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