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FINAL UPDATE WAS AT 12:00 (Moscow Time) May 30
For chronological order, read from the bottom of the page upwards
This weekend saw another Gay Pride in eastern Europe. The Moscow LGBT community has been trying to stage a Gay Pride march every year since May 2006. The permit for the pride - and for any other public action labelled as LGBT- has always been denied by the City authorities.
However, a small march with about 30 participants, was staged along part of the busy Leningradsky Street, after organisers totally out-witted the police an security services.
Part of process of out-witting the authorities was mis-information, such as the location of the clandestine march. It was known to the organisers that the authorities were monitoring the on-line reports from foriegners here, including this blog of events. So, mis-information was fed to us and we willingly posted it on the basis that the gay community in Moscow desvered their Pride, no matter how small.
The few instances of mis-information contained on this page have not been removed. They now appear in bold italic.
Those involved in this on-line subterfuge were only too pleased to help in this "cat and mouse" situation with the authorities. That the Moscow Pride march took place is largely due to the detailed planning by the organisers, which it has emerged, has been going on for months.
Yuri Luzhkov, the notorious Mayor of the Russian capital, has publicly called gay pride marches "satanc gathering". LGBT activists, lead by Moscow Pride chief Organizer Nikolai Alekseev, have appealed all the denials through courts without success and have now taken the matter to the European court of Humna Rights. May 27, 2010, will mark the 5th attempt to stage a Gay Pride March in Moscow.
The previous fout attempts took place despite the bans and activists always met violence from protesters and faced arrests from the Police. After covering the Slavic Gay Pride in Minsk two weeks ago, UK Gay News invites you to follow live from Moscow the 5th Moscow Pride.
This is a “blog” of what is happening in Moscow, with contributions from a number of participants, including Peter Tatchell of Outrage! in London, Andy Thayer for the Gay Liberation Network in Chicago, Louis-Georges Tin of IDAHO, Nikolai Alekseev, UK Gay News and others. The aim is to be as up to date as possible ...
All times are Moscow times (UTC +3)
SATURDAY MAY 29
22:10: Time for informal speeches. The two Nikolai's - Alekseev and Baev - thank all those who made Pride possible. Much fun and leg-pulling. Everyone in happy mode... Now to open the vodka ... So better wrap up this blog for the evening, or there will be too many typos!
21:45: The After-Pride Party begins ...
21:00: Confusion as The Associated Press is reporting TWO Gay Pride marches were staged in Moscow today, the first being in "The Arbat, a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes that is one of Moscow's main tourist draws" that featured 25 activists who marched for 10 minutes. The AP then went on to say that: "A few hours later in northwestern Moscow a smaller, international group including British activist Peter Tatchell unveiled a long rainbow flag ..." No one here knows anything about this reported first march!
20:00: So much for the Mayor of Moscow banning the Gay Pride because the authorities would be unable to protect Pride participants from the anti-gay "skinheads". Word has just come that there were no skinheads to be seen at lunchtime anywhere near the Moscow office of the European Commision! In fact, no skinheads were seen "hunting down gays" all day.
18:55: As everyone winds down, there is one big decision to make. Which club to we go to for a celebration?
17:46: The Moscow Militia just announced that there were no arrests at the "unsanctioned" Gay Pride march. The Russian news agencies are also reporting the events of this afternoon. Interfax is saying that "the Gay Pride took place today for the first time".
17:00: Nikolai Alekseev: "We showed today that despite what the Mayor of Moscow is saying and despite the Court decision, it is POSSIBLE to host a March in support of gay rights in Moscow
15:35: Slowly, everyone is returning to HQ. Big smiles all round ... the activists outsmarted officialdom, with the cops left with considerable egg on their faces.
14:20: Pride chief organiser Nikolai Alekseev has just given a TV interview with AFP outside an old KGB building!
14:06: Tatchell Tweet: "Up yours mayor luzhkov. Gay pride march has happened, despite ban & police dragnet. Guerrilla style hit & run. Police furious & red faced"
13:50: IT HAPPENED ... GAYS MARCHED IN MOSCOW For around 10 minutes or more, gay activists managed to stage a Pride march in a busy Moscow street [Leningradsky Street]. And there was not a cop in sight! More later
13:10: Parade should start in minutes ... Blog closing for 30 minutes.
13:08: Tatchell Tweets: "Protest delay as we try to sneak through police cordon. Ring of police to get past"
12:48: Everyone is getting impatient! All want to march. But organisers say safety is of paramount importance. Alekseev: "All is fine and going to the basic plan, given the difficulty of staging anything in Moscow ... Our aim is to prevent participants from being attacked and arrested. I'm sure everyone understands that."
12:43: Organisers: "Everything going to plan, apart from the timings." They add: "Moscow Pride is a James Bond- type commando operation. It is more difficult to organise the logistics here than it is say London or Paris with floats and tens of thousands participants." Expected to defy the Moscow march ban are around 30 participants.
12:36: Tatchell: "We fear bashing & arrest - but we are determined."
12:28: Best laid plans often feature a hic-cup! Still waiting for the parade. Organisers say the delay is because the police "are after us - but we will soon be out on the streets." Police and OMON have a virtual "lockdown" outside City Hall, Pushkinskaya Square and the offices of the European Commission.
12:00: LIVE BLOG NOW "CLOSING" FOR ABOUT 25 MINUTES ... hopefully back by 12:30 Moscow time
11:58: Peter Tatchell Tweets: "It's like the soviet era. We are being hunted by police & fsb security. Russian gay activists, so brave." and "Calm before storm. 30 of us huddle in tiny space. Sweltering. Waiting for signal to start protest. Very nervous"
11:40: Preparing to hot-foot it to the march. Blog will soon go "silent" for some 30-45 minutes. Back with photos ... or else in jail!
11:25: Many Tweets being sent to #moscowpride. "Wishing I could be at #MoscowPride walking in solidarity with the brothers and sisters in our struggle. Shame on banning Pride in Russia!" is one ... another: "Wishing the best of luck to the marchers at #MoscowPride - don't let the bastard grind you down!"
11:19: Moscow cops appear to be in "headless chicken" mode! They appear to be totally confused. Bit like a script from a Pink Panther movie ...
11:12: Report says square in front of city hall packed with militia and omon units ...
11:09: Another Tweet from Volker Beck: "jounalist informs me that police is already at secret meeting point for the press"
11:05: Volker Beck Tweets: "small groups gather in the city of moscow to go to the gay pride march. long live article 31 of the russian constitution!"
11:00: SMS messages coming in ... Cops, who are trying to find out exactly what is happening, are reportedly following the journalists ... German MP Volker Beck says that he is being discretly followed ... Groups of participants are getting close to the Moskva River where they have been told they will board a boat.
10:43: "The world is watching you, Mayor Luzhkov ... The whole world is watching, Mr. Chief of Police." That's the message from Chicago gay activist Andy Thayer who is here for the second consecutive year.
10:27: Lull in information coming-in from "the trenches" to here in a cafe by Red Square. As they say, no news is good news!
10:10: Things can best be described as "organsied chaos". Lots of very small groups all over the downtown area heading towards the "march". All seems to be going to plan. Thankfully no reports of any problems.
09:50: Pride participants are forming small groups across the city and are heading to the centre, in the direction of Kremlin. Andy Thayer and Louis Georges Tin went first. They were followed by Peter Tatchell and Sergey Androsenko the organizer of Minsk Pride.
09:41: “Aren’t you scared that protesters and especially the police are already waiting, we asked the press officer? “Not really. We monitored the level of anti-pride activity in the last three weeks and surprisingly, it is almost non existing. Several journalists called the main groups who protested against us last year and the previous years and they said they have no plan this year. In addition, they have been silent in the Russian media or on their own Websites” And what about the police, we asked? “We know they are already waiting for us today. Today you will probably see Tatchell, Thayer, Tin ... probably also Beck and a group of at least 30 Russians and Belarusians ... arrested by the Russian police under the windows of the European Commission in Moscow. This is our message for this year. Police violence and no re-action from the EU. We want to denounce hypocrisy. In Russia, the EU sold human rights for oil and gas, as Nikolai told media at the Press Conference on Thursday.”
09:36: We have just been tipped-off by the Pride Press Officer that this year the organisers want to bring more colour to their event. In addition to the 20 meters Rainbow Flag, it is expected that Nikolai Alekseev will show up as the “captain of the event”. What does that mean? Will activists arrived by boat? The European Commission office, where the Pride is planned, is located on the banks of the Moskva River. Or are they going to do something by air like during Soviet times when someone landed on the Red Square?
09:30: Two “undercover” activists are already at the spot of the parade to ensure that all is fine. Many are thinking: How the activists will start the march ? What have they planned? Foreigners and most Russian and Belarusian participants ignore the details…
09:08: Journalists keep calling the organisers to ask for the location of today's action. "As it was said during the press conference, our aim is to stage our Pride under the windows of the office of the European Commission, here in Moscow" says Nikolai Baev
08:40: A few blushes as an email sent by Nikolai Alekseev overnight is read:
"I just wanted to share with all of you how it is such a gift to have Peter [Tatchell], Andy [Thayer] and Louis-Georges [Tin] here with us in Moscow. It is not their first time here. They come again despite the threats, despite the beatings and despite the arrests.
"Louis-Georges has been a great help when I came up with the project of Moscow Pride in 2005 already. He helped to bring attention to us and to attract some key figures at first Moscow Pride. This is how we managed to create here in Moscow a group of 30 activists who are ready to go in any action.
"Peter has always been extremely supportive from the day I met him at London Pride in 2005 and he made 4 Prides out of 5 ! He only missed one after he was severly injured in 2007. His experience and organizational skills is a real force. If you had a chance to spend only a week end working with him you would learn so much on how to handle media communication for all your life.
"And Andy -whom I met in Chicago when Gay Liberation Network invited me for its annual event- who saved all the year to be able to return for the second time to Moscow this year. He denied last year to be released before us when we were all arrested and he wanted to share our pain until the end.
"We are surrounded by so many great people and I hope that all of you will have a chance to meet them once in real. The spirit of Harvey Milk keeps going with all of you.
"I saw so many cowards in our movement around the world, so many people who only earn on us and on our fights, I so so much disgust, but when I see these three guys here with us, I forget all the pain that organizing this event brings for weeks. And it only energize all of us enough to be ready for whatever will be today.
08:00: The much anticipated day in here! What awaits us? Everyone is naturally a little nervous as we get another briefing. Told that it is looking unlikely that the skinheads will be around. But the cops (and OMON) probably will be. But there is a determination to parade the 20 metre-long Rainbow flag for at least 200 metres in downtown Moscow.
FRIDAY MAY 28
21:30: Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer have both written commentaries slamming the lack of condemnation of the ban on Moscow Pride by the Embassies of EU countries, the EU itself, the USA and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). And on that note, this blog is calling it a day - will be back in about 10 hours, on Moscow Pride Day.
20:30: Participants for Moscow Pride continue to arrive from all over the Russian Federation. Also, someone from Germany arrived.
19:10: The 'act of defiance' of the ban on Moscow Pride will be outside the European Commission office at 12 noon, organisers announced. [This indeed was the announcement to the media in Moscow - added on May 30]
17:40: Alekseev has just revealed he received a phone call from someone attempting to get information on tomorrow's plans. "They called as if they were from Interfax and started to ask questions,” he said. “But they made a big mistake and I quickly realised that they were not calling from Interfax, but from the police department."
16:15: News conference over. Time for something to eat ...!
15:48: "I just received ILGA-Europe's Euro Letter for May" Alekseev said outside the court at the make-shift news conference. "There is an article about freedom of assembly which says Moscow prepares to see the 6th banned LGBT Pride on 29 May. He reads part of the article. "This is not at all serious. The ILGA Europe guys have one staff who is supposedly dedicated to Russia and for which they received full funding from the European Commission, creating well paid jobs in Brussels while homophobia is in Moscow and the guys can't even count. From 2006 to 2010 makes it the 5th Moscow Pride not the 6th. And everywhere we wrote about our jubille and 5th anniversary. They get paid for what they do and they are not at all attentive. They distribute wrong information. It's outrageous." Much amusement shown by local - and foreign - LGBT activists.
Blog continued after photo
15:33: The Court room was laughing - including the judge - at the argument of the representative from City Hall who explained that the Mayor banned the Pride because of where the organisers wanted to march there are already public actions in support of Putin's government previously applied from 9am until 9 pm
15:30: No suprise: The judge of the Tverskoy Ditrict Court has upheld the ban by the Mayor of Moscow of tomorrow's Pride March.
Blog continued after photo
15:20: Lawyers for both sides still making points ... the case is still going on.
13:00: Court appeal hearing to try and declare illegal the ban of tomorrow's Pride march by the Mayor is about to start.
12:30: A day of relatively little organisised. So a little bit of being the tourist. Pouring over the guide books, but so difficult to find exactly how to get to the museums etc.. Could be a case of "Lost in Moscow"?
12:00: Do not wear any badges if you go out in the Moscow streets today - that was the advice from Pride organisers to the foreigners here attending Pride. Seems like the local thugs are up for a little "queer bashing".
23:00: Several plans for Saturday now made ... and the gathering then watched a screening of the Canadian documentary "Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride". Blog is now closing down for the night. Tomorrow is another big day in the courts with the appeal against the Mayor's ban of the Pride march. This is scheduled for 1pm.
21:55: Also here are those from St Petersburg and the Eastern part of Russia, not to mention a delegation from Minsk.
Blog continued after photo
17:45: The Associated Press broadcast the first news broadcast after the Press Conference. They reported about the dispointment of the Moscow Pride organisers that no EU Embassies expressed any kind of political support. According to them, the EU is promoting and pushing gay rights accross all Eastern Europe but they remain extremely silent when it turns to the issue of human rights in Russia.
17.35: French TV station, TF1, has posted a seven minute interview with Nikolai Alekseev
17.30: During a preliminary hearing today at Tverskoy District Court, from 5pm to 5.15pm, a Judge confirmed that the hearing of the Moscow Pride March banned bythe Mayor will be considered tomorrow at 1.30pm.
10.00: Full report of the press conference at the Holday Inn posted by UK Gay News HERE.
14.30: Pride organisers and the foreign LGBT press/activists went for a "finger lickin'" bite to eat ...
13.30: After Nikolai Baev spoke to the press in Russian, Peter Tatchell said he was here to back the right of LGBT people to have their human rights in Moscow. The bans were illegal under Russia's own constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court is expected to hand-down its judgement on the case of Moscow Pride organisers and the Russian Federation in the coming months, he said. "The mayor should be put on trial," Tatchell insisted. "It is not the Pride organisers who are the criminals, it's the Mayor". The then called on the Russian President and the Prime Minister to denounce the bans on Moscow Pride. "We are determined to march on Saturday," he said.
13.30: Louis-Georges Tin was next up. He said he was both happy and sad to be here - sad because of the banning yet again of the Pride march. Message from IDAHO ... we want to have the right to be who we are. He praised the tenacity of the Pride organsiers, and of the Moscow gay community.
13.25: Alekseev has just given the introduction. No subtitles! Now Volker Beck, the Green MP from Germany is telling the media that the freedom to march in a Pride is a human right that should'nt be denied. He said he was amazed that no alternative routes were provided by the authorities. Then in a "rallying cry", he said that he looked forward to next year and the first properly-authorised parade.
13.00: About 30 journalists are in the Holiday Inn for the press conference. In addition there are 10 television cameras. It's the same all over the world - the writers are towards the back of the room so that most of the writers can't see!
12.11: Alekseev is answering questions from journalists outside the Court after he gave the preliminary appeal to the judge.
12.08: The judge has upheld the decision of the Prefecture to ban the three pickets. The next chance will be tomorrow in Tverskoy Court on the case of the banned Pride Marche by the Mayor.
12.05: The Judge has not returned yet to give his decision ... but Alekseev is already writing a preliminary appeal, so as not to loose the opportunity to appeal the decision.
12.00: The Moscow Pride Press Conference starts in an hour and activists are still in Court waiting for the decision. Given the incredible heavy traffic in Moscow on daytime, activists will be in a rush.
11.52: Nikolai Alekseev tells his activists that he received three calls from the Deputy Head of the Moscow Police this morning who desperatly inquired of the location of the press conference. "They don't even tap our phones properly," he said! Everyone laughed.
11.40: Alexey Golitsin, who acts as a press coordinator, keeps receiving requests for accreditaton from journalists while he is here in Court. The Press Conference is in only an hour! More than 32 media accredited already.
11.40: The Judge not returned yet. Maria Efremenkova, who arrived by train this morning from St. Petersburg explains that following this Court process is most useful for her as she expects her group to go through the same issue in a month in St Petersburg. It is unlikely that the Pride will be allowed St Petersburg.
11.28: There is little hope for the activists and no one here expect to see the judge reversing the ban. However, Ira Fet, a lesbian activist who attempted to marry her partner during last Moscow Pride a year ago says: "We have to do all we can and apply to court here before the Pride to show the world that there is no court protection here."
11.26: Alekseev explains that even if the judge reverse the Prefecture decision to ban the event, the decision will come into force only after 10 days! "The Russian law on public meetings does not allow for any effecive legal remedy before the date of the planned public event," he tells a journalist in the corridor.
11.24: Having heard the submission from both sides, the judge has retired to consider his decision.
11.04: After the usual formailty, the hearing proceed and Nikolai Alekseev is asking the Prefecture how come it did not provide any alternative location? In its denial, the local authorities did not raise any secuity issue but instead claimed that some rebuilding works were ongoing in the three locations where activists were planning their actions.
11.02: The Judge refused to allow the taking of photos or video recordings dring the hearing.
11.00: Awoke to fine that Andy Thayer had shruggeg-off jet lag and worked through the night on his first piece for the Chicago Indymedia. Worth a read. Nikolai Alekseev is leading a group of a dozen activists who arrived at the Tagansky District Court for the hearing of the ban of three pickets that the Moscow Pride organizers for Saturday. As part of their strategy, the organizers applied for three pickets at the Prefecture of the Central area of Moscow and a Pride March at the City Hall. The hearing on the banned Pride March is expected to take place tomorrow at the Tverskoy District Court. The court hearing starts right on time and is expected to last for 30 to 45mn. Keep watching as UK Gay News is blogging from inside the Court.
02.00: Peter Tatchell, Louis-Georges Tin and Andy Harley arrived in Moscow for the Pride weekend. Andy Thayer from Chicago had arrived earlier. What is in store for us? All too tired to really care!