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BELARUS

Blogging from Belarus and Slavic Gay Pride
 

 
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■ The 'rainbow flag' being defiantly carried on the unauthorised Slavic Gay Pride march in Minsk on Saturday afternoon.  The photo was taken just before the riot police moved-in to try and arrest the participants
photo: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 

 

This weekend saw another Gay Pride in eastern Europe.  Slavic Pride gets underway in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday.  The planned parade on Saturday was banned by the city authorities who used the flimsy excuse that the route was too near to metro (underground) stations and pedestrian crossings.  There have also been threats to disrupt other events during Slavic Pride.

The Slavic Pride movement was founded in autumn 2008 in Minsk.  The first Pride took place in Moscow on May 16 last year and coincided with Eurovision Song Contest.  Moscow authorities banned the event and dozens of activists, including Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer, were arrested by militia. 

This is a “blog” of what happened in Minsk, with contributions from a number of participants – and the aim was to be as up to date as possible - and many posts during Saturday afternoon were online withing three to four minutes of events taking place.

All times are Minsk times (UTC +3)

 SUNDAY MAY 16

The shutters are down pulled down on this blog.  Many thanks to all contributors, especially the handful of people who were reporting "from the street".

The organisers of Salvic Pride have sent a message thanking those who followed the blog over the past 48 hours on this site or on other English language Web sites.  They also extended thanks to the French, German, and Spanish sites which translated and republished this blog.  "The Second Slavic Pride was in most ways a sucess this year, even if the public action was banned and if the participants have met police violence and faced arrests.  We have been able to march symbolically in Minsk on Saturday with the rainbow flag despite the multiple threats we received over the last few days, despite the police attempts to prevent our action and despite the pressure received by some of our activists from the KGB.  We did not give up.  We marched against homophobia.  On the even of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we will now fight for the release of the seven participants still detained.  Congratulations to all the Belarusian & Russian activists who made history in Minsk. 'Gay Equality, No Compromise'." - The Slavic Pride Organising Committee.

12.45: Food and drinks for the seven detained have been taken to the police station by Sergey Androsenko.  In Belarus, anyone detained by the police have to be fed by their relatives.

12.30: Maria Efremenkova, St Petersburg Pride chief organiser, was told by the Russian Embassy this morning that the Belarusian Authorities have denied Embassy officials consular access to the two Russians being detained.

10.00: The 2010 the Slavic Pride Awards were handed out in the 'wee small hours'. The Belarus Award went to Alexander Sakovich, the directeur of Club 6_A, the only only gay club in Minsk, while the founder and president of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Louis-Georges Tin, picked-up the International Award.

10.00: Yes, there were eight still locked-up by the police awating court appearances tomorrow (Monday).  But now there are seven.  One managed to escape by asking to go to the toilet and then calmly walking out of a door to freedom! Said escapee actually made the Pride party.

10.00: There were no incidents at the closing party. There was a minute of silence to remember the seven march participants who are in police custody.

00.40: This live blogging is now pausing for about eight hours.   But a couple of items in the 'food for thought' department ... the Belarus Web site Ont.by News is reporting that there were no more than half a dozen people on the march (so how come 12 participants were arrested?) ... and one march participant reported tonight that a TV JOURNALIST started to throw eggs at the participants during the march. Another journalist stopped him and said: "Vassya, wait at least until we have finished our work ... we have expensive equipment here." Only in Belarus ...?

00.32: The post-Pride party is now on ... though most participants are not in a party mood until everyone is released.  The Slavic Pride Awards 2010 are going to be announced during the Party tonight. These will be posted here later.

00.25: The police seem to have found some petrol for their car!  The group of eight have finally been moved to the detention centre for administrative offenders.  They will stay there until Monday and their court appearances.

SATURDAY MAY 15

23.29: Police are now patrolling around the club where the post-Pride party takes place tonight.  Things are reported to be "quiet".

23.05: Reuters now have a report, with a slide show of seven photos, HERE.

22.22: Belapan, the Belarus news agency, has video footage of the march and arrests, plus still photos HERE.

22.22: Proof that Russian media are adapting to the fact that Gay Prides are a modern fact of life?  Today, the Russian news agency RIA NOVOSTI is reporting Minsk and Brussels Gay Prides.

22.15: The group of eight held together in custody - they were told earlier that they might be released due to a petrol shortage - have now been told that they will be kept locked-up until court on Monday.  Medical services have been called as two Belarusians have injuries following their violent and brutal arrest as police broke-up the march.

20:53: Bad news for the Russians who were arrested.  The diplomat from the Russian Embassy, after visiting the Police station, said that they were arrested for taking part in an unauthorised event and therefore should answer according to the law.  The Embassy will not be providing any assistance.

20:42: Interesting blog posting from film-maker Logan Micha who reports on the march from the media point of view in Slavic Pride Parade a Brutal Success.

19:52: The gay club where tonight's "post-Pride" party is due to take place is being decorated.  The police will send a special patrol to protect the entrance.  The party is not cancelled and will take place.

19:47: Sergey Androsenko and others have just been released together with the three others who were arrested at the cafe.  Still waiting to hear from the group of eight.

19:44: Reports say that the police chased after the 'mysterious' biker who opened the Pride march with a rainbow flag (photogtaphed by Reuters).   They failed to catch him.  

19:27: Russians have been told by their Embassy that the Consul has given an instruction to a diplomat to go to the police department and solve the problem.

18:56: The Russians who went to their Embassy asking for consular support for the two Russians from St Petersburg arrested and detained were told that the information will be transferred to the consul and that they have to call back in 30mn.  But they said that Russians who breach the law abroad have to be punished according to local laws.

18:46: Participants in Slavic Gay Pride are very encouraged to learn that two websites, one in Germany and another in France, are translating this blog into their respective languages.  "Big hugs from Minsk to Queer.de in Germany and Yagg.com in France," they say ...

18:25: Eight of those arrested and detained together have been told by the police that they do not have petrol in the car and cannot take them to the detention place where they were supposed to stay until the court hearing!  They have been told that they will be released on the condition they show up in court on Monday. "It will be even worse for you if you don't show up on Monday," they were told.

18:20: German government is being urged to make representation to Belarus.  German out-gay MP Volker Beck is making the request as he been doing for a number of years when Russian activists have been arrested during unsanctionned rallies in Moscow.

18:15: Organisers of Moscow and St Petersburg Prides are heading to the Russian Embassy in Minsk to ask for consular assistance following the arrest and detention of the two Russians, both organisers of St Petersburg Pride.

18:11: In Paris, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder and President of the IDAHO Committee who is following th situation in Minsk, said he is in contact with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to get possible diplomatic action by France asking the release of the 12 detained participants.

17:46: It appears that a total of 12 participants in the gay pride march have been arrested.  Eight are being detained in one police station and four in another.  The eight who are together are saying that they will be taken to the special detention centre for administrative offenders until court, probably on Monday.

17:06: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American government-financed operation based in Europe, has photos of the march HERE.   The text is in Belorusian.



Video from Savaboda.org

 

17:06: Sergey Androsenko reported by SMS from the Police department that eight Pride marchers will be appear in Court. There is a probability they will be detained in custody ar until Monday when the cour re-opens after the weekend.

17:03: Reuters has a photo of a motobike rider opening the gay march, waiving a rainbow flag.

16:59: Andosenko and three others are being interrogated by the police.   Also arrested by the police were at least 18 skinheads.  Police are now concerned about the evening closing party.

16:22: Nikolai Alekseev: "After we ran away from the anti riot police, Ira Fet (one of the lesbian who is campaigning with her partner for same sex marriage in Russia) and I took refuge in the small room of a VIP building where they keep the trash.  We stayed there for 20 minutes while I was receiving calls from media outlets.

16:10: Androsenko is among the three (some reports say four) who were arrested in the cafe.  They were taken from the table by the police and removed from the cafe via the backdoor.

16:07: Three pride march participants are reported to have been arrested at a nearby cafe AFTER the event.

16:02: Apologies for lack of photographs.  Obviously the participants in the march were more concerned about escaping from the riot police.  We are trying to souce photographs.

15:55: Alekseev: "I've never run so fast in my life".  The participants who were not  arrested are still under shock.  One can feel that they are proud of what they did today, but you can also feel the stress in their voices after the violent police crack down they suffered.

15:50:  CORRECTION: Sergey Androsenko appears not to have been arrested.

15:48: Nikolai Alekseev, Nikolai Baev as well as the lesbian couple who attempted to marry last year in Moscow are safe.  With them is Maria Yefremnkova, the chief organiser of St Petersburg Pride.

Continued after photo
 
■ The short Slavic Gay Pride march in Minsk on Saturday afternoon.  The photo was taken just before the riot police moved-in to try and arrest the participants
photo: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 

 

15:45: Between five and ten participants are reported to be detained by the police, including Sergey Androsenko, chief organiser of Slavic Pride, and Alexander Sheremet, one of the St. Petersburg Pride organiser.  Local activists are working to provide them with legal assistance.

15:08 Minsk had its gay pride march.  For just 10 minutes, 40  Belarusians and Russians waived a 12 meters long rainbow flag for a short march of approximately 200 meters.  They were at first met by a large group of journalists, photographers and TV crew.  But when they reached the first crossing point, they were trapped by several vans of anti-riot police.  Suddenly, the doors of the vans opened and anti-riot officers ran towards the participants. “I never saw anything of the kind” said Nikolai Alekseev by mobile phone.  “They were brutal and violent,” he added.  Another participant who did not want to be named said: “It was like a group of wild dogs”.  The march ended when some of the participants were arrested and violently beaten.  Some managed to escape,  but the police ran after them.

14:55: "A big mess," a participant is reporting via SMS.

14:53: A short-lived March took place with 40 participants ... violent crack down from anti riot police.

Continued after photos
 
■ Participants on the march pause for a "photo opportunity" with the press.
photos: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 

 
14:50:
 A member of the gay community in Minsk is telling us that protesters who came last night to disrupt the openning ceremony belonged to a group of fooball fans.  Some were wearing the uniform of this group.  The photo we published shows that they were 'commanded' by an older man in a suit.  None of them have been arrested by the police.

14:45: So far, there ae no reports in the Belarusian or Russian media about what is going on in Minsk.  Journalists are all waiting - and probably among them are some undercovered police or intelligence officers.

14:40: A journalist has said he heard an unconfirmed report that "around 10 young woman have been arrested" ... but could not say whether they are participants in the march or opponents.

14:37: It can now be revealed that the initial plan of the Pride organisers was to march for approximately 800 meters from the Academy of Sciences.  The start was scheduled at 1.10pm.  The plan was cancelled just 5 minutes before as the police and the army were already on the spot.  Organisers are discussing an alternate location.

14:32: Pride organisers have planned to fly today a 2 meters long rainbow flag that has previously been used in Minsk.  Will the flag fly anywhere today ?

14:29: Belarusian News Agency BelaPAN this morning wired to Belarusian media a statement of support for the Slavic Pride from Amnesty International.   "Belarusian authorities must show greater commitment to its obligations under human rights", the wire story said.

14:04: Organisers are continuing to consider their options for a revised schedule for the "unauthorised march".

13:24: Several police buses and even military troops have gathered next to the place where Pride organisers were suppose to meet media, to take them to the start of the march.  "It is not possible to do anything, but we have not given up yet," organisers said defiantly.  There are about 60 journalists are waiting to cover the Slavic Pride.

13:20: The French news agency Agence France Presse has a report on thier wire.  Ironically, it is the Jamaica Observer that appears to be the first to publish it.  Jamaica is noted for its homophobia.

13:09: SMS message from the start of the march: "Risks to big. Androsenko canclled the 1.10pm plan and postponed to later. 8 cameras and many reporters here".

13:01: Unauthorised Slavic Gay Pride in Minsk about to start in a few minutes - will the participants be able to defy the police and succeed?

12:53: Not a very good start for the march.  Media have gathered - but there is a police car next to them.

12:50: Russian and Belarusian Pride marchers have been provided with a form to handover to the police in case of arrest.  The form needs to be signed in case of arrest and basically says that the person recognises his guilt for taking part in an unsanctionned event and agrees to pay a fine of 17,500 Belarusian Rubles (just under US$6).  According to the law, a person who pays this fine has to be released by the police and should not be kept in custody until court case.

12:30: Who said that Pride does not help to re-connect people?   A Belarusian gay group that was opposed to the idea of holding Pride in Minsk was present yesterday at the premiere of the movie and started a reconciliation on "the Pride issue".

12:25: Set to take part in the march are 17 Belarusian gay activists - three cancelled at the last minute. They will be joined by around the same number of Russian activists, including Nikolai Bayev, who arrived from Moscow on the overnight train this morning, and four organisers of St. Petersburg Gay Pride.

12:15: Those brave enough to take part in the unauthorised march are now making their final preparations "at a secret location".  The defiant march is scheduled to get underway in just under an hour.

11:50: Proof that everything has to be considered: At yesterday's press conference, neither Alekseev and Androsenko wore any orange coloured clothes.  The reason?  They wanted to avoid headline like "Gay revolution in Minsk".  Orange is associated in the fomer Soviet bloc with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

11:00:  Slavic Pride in Minsk is going to be a repeat of Moscow Pride 2008 when organisers managed to stage a short and symbolic "parade" of a few hundred metres. Guest at last night's film screening here saw footage of Moscow 2008.

10:00:  Briefings for the Pride participants who are split in several groups.  Final overal plan has been put in place and is known to only four people.  Tight security for the plan is really to prevent the anti-gay protestors from causing problems.  The police appear to realise that the Pride protestors are not hooligans and the the parade will not be "political".

09:00:  Interesting reports say that last evening the head of the police of the central area of Minsk was seen at the gay club where a Pride Party is scheduled tonight.  The club fears an attack from protestors ... but so far, the management told the organisers he has no plan to close and will open tonight, though increased security has been ordered.

08:00:  Discussions about today's plan to hold the unauhorised Pride took place after the reception last night.  Several options were agreed.   Organizers did not sleep much.

 FRIDAY MAY 14

22:55:  The audience was very moved by the movie, watching the difficulties to stage Prides in Moscow or Warsaw and the contrast with Sao Paulo, New York or Vancouver ... and there is a lot of emotion on faces of the guests here in Belarus.   Standing ovation for Bob Christie, the film director.  Alekseev: "We held this event here in Minsk tonight and the protestors did not stop us despite trying. Congratulations to all. This is already the first step."  Guests are now heading for a cocktail reception.

22:50:  The film is now over - many in the audience were able to see themselves in the film ... the organising committee of Moscow Pride 2008 especially.

22:10:  Much hillarity when movie shows Ken Coolen, chief organiser of Vancouver Pride, saying: "I was nervous before meeting Nikolai Alekseev.  Meeting Nikolai for me was like meeting Madonna. "  Alekseev blushes!

21:55:  Film has resumed in another part of the hotel.  Alekseev makes an introduction and explained to the guests that they are now going to watch the central part of the documentary which is dedicated to Moscow Pride 2008.  Great applause in the room.

21:47:  Quote from Pride organisers: "The way the Crowne Plaza management is handking the situation is far above all we could ever have dreamed of.   Looks like they are more deternined than us that the show must go on!"

21:40:   Bomb alert at Crowne Plaza.  Film interrupted.   Police asked that the film be stopped and relocate to another room within the hotel. "So, we are having a break and relocating."

21:05:  Screening of film now started. Just over 100 braved the protestors to get into the hotel.

20:40:  Police and riot police have cleared the entrance to the hotel and have cordoned it off.  Participants are entering, but protsters are standing by in front of the hotel.  The room is already full for the film. Alekseev said that the show will start at 9pm instead of 8pm and asked for the understanding for the delay.

20:25:  Police have called the riot police to remove the protesters.  As in Russia, they are also called OMON.  Hotel security reports that they already found some protesters inside the hotel - they have been removed from the premises.

20:20:  Protestors outside the hotel are wearing masks and hoods so as not to be identified.  The police arrived to try to take them out.  The hotel management have asked the organizers to identify their guests to avoid letting protestors in the premises.

20:15:   More from Alekseev: "We will do everything to symbolically conduct the event tonight and we thank the management of the Crowne Plaza hotel for their support in trying to solve the situation with us."

20:10:  From inside the hotel, Nikolai Alekseev explained: "The management of the hotel has nothing against our event and they are incredibly usefull in trying to solve the situation.  The security has called the police to clear the way to the hotel. The event is not cancelled but only delayed.  This is nothing very different than what we had to manage in Mocow in 2006 and 2007, when Swissotel was under siege by neo-nazis.

 
■ Hooded protestors outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Minsk plot how they intend to disrupt the film screening and reception inside the hotel.
photo: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 
 

20:05 : Minsk Crowne Plaza Hotel is under siege by a few dozen anti-gay protesters.  The hotel is hosting at 8pm local time the premiere of the Canadian documentary Beyond Gays: The Politics of Pride.   At 8pm, the show did not start and only 40 participants out of the 150 who confirmed their presence could make it into the hotel.

20:00 : The event is probably going to be cancelled. The access to the hotel is blocked.  Only a dozen or so participants could reach the hotel.  The police is expected in the premises.

19:55:  Hotel is now under seige.  It is not possible to enter, and not possible to leave.

19:50:  The premiere of the movie is scheduled in 10 minutes.  Despite organiers keeping the location secret, Radio Liberty Belarus published the location on its website two hours ago. Sergey Androsenko reports that he has been informed by phone that protesters are on a tram, on their way to disrupt the event.
 
■ Protestors outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Minsk  attempt to prevent Gap Pride guests from entering the hotel.  Later, the police were called
photo: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 

 

19:30: "I think we have a mess here". The words of on of the Slavic Pride organisers as protestors gather to blockade a hotel where events are being staged.

16:30:  Organisers are having briefing before the reception and premiere of the movie they host tonight.  They expect 100 to 150 participants.   The mother of Sergey Androsenko, the organiser of this year's Slavic Pride, asked if she could speak to the audience before the screening of the movie.

16:00:  Press Conference is now over.  Sergey Androsenko and Nikolai Alekseev answered questions from journalists for an hour.   The small room was packed.  Among media represented were Interfax, Ria Novosti, Reuters, NTV and local Belarusian media.  All went well.  Two representatives of the police or intelligence have been spotted in the room by human rights activists, but nothing considered unusual here in Minsk.
 
 
■ Sergey Androsenko (right) and Nikolai Alekseev answer question from the press (below)
photos: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/GayRussia.ru
 

 

14:30:  Russians are heading to the Press Conference which is due to start at 15:00

14:00:  Seminar ends and all went well. Sergey Androsenko, the organiser of Minsk Pride, is saying that it is “a good sign that protestors will not try to disrupt any event”.

13:00:  A seminar hosted at the Belarusian Helsinki Committee starts.  Approximately 30 Belarusians are taking part.  The main topic is about how to react in case of arrest during the unauthorized pride tomorrow!

12:00:  Russians are meeting together for a briefing on the current situation.  All are discussing the plan of action for the next 24 hours.  Nikolai Alekseev confirms that unlike last September when several EU Embassies took part to the LGBT Conference in Minsk, this time, Embassies will not be present.  An EU Embassy, which is usually very progressive for LGBT rights, even said “we believe this is too much for Belarus”.

11.30:  The French Embassy in Minsk is advising its citizens to keep away from the march tomorrow as it has not been authorised.  This is also valid for the private events being organised tonight at a prime, but so far secret, location.  Scheduled is a reception and the premiere of the Canadian documentary Beyond Gays, the Politics of Pride.

11:00:  The Guardian published a commentary written by Nikolai Alekseev about the Slavic Pride in Belarus.  This is the first and only report in a non-LGBT media. Organisers say they are bewildered about the  lack of interest in their event after all the noise around Vilnius Pride a week ago.  Minsk is just 169km south of Vilnius.

10:00:  The delegation of Russians arrived on the overnight train from Moscow.  About the same time, the St Petersburg Pride organisers arrived

THURSDAY MAY 13

23.30: The IDAHO Committee was told that the French MPs who met this week a delegation of Belarusian MPs in Paris, raised the issue of the ban of the Slavic Pride.   The Belarusian MPs explained that the Gay Pride in Minsk was banned for the security of the participants as the event would take place on the public space.  But, they added that there is no issue in organizing events in private place. (Report now online HERE) The organisers planned several private events tomorrow (Friday).  The march is on Saturday.

Evening: Nikolai Alekseev from Moscow, who is in Minsk for two weeks to help the Belarusian organisers, reports that he was on the phone in the evening with Volker Beck, the German MP, and Sophie Int Veld, the Dutch MEP, discussing the latest situation.

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First posted: 14 May 2010 at 10:00 (UK time) and updated frequently

   
             
       

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