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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

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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