ST. PETERSBURG, June 26, 2011 (Gay Russia/UK Gay News) – Yesterday saw the second attempt by LGBT activists in St. Petersburg to host an annual Gay Pride March. Last year’s attempt was banned by the city hall. Despite the ban, two dozen LGBT activists defied the ban and walked in front of the famous Hermitage Museum. The police arrested five participants last year.
The same scenario happened today as Slavic Pride was banned and organisers said they will not cancel their plans. As was announced yesterday during a press-conference, the banned Pride started at 2pm at the statue of Peter the Great in the centre of the city. 20 people showed up for the event and 14 were arrested.
This year, St. Petersburg Pride is hosting the third Slavic Gay Pride. Slavic Gay Pride is a union of Russian-Belarusian-Ukrainian Pride organisers. Previous Slavic Gay Pride in Moscow (2009) and Minsk (2010) were banned and participants were arrested.
This is a blog, from GayRussia, of the happenings yesterday in St. Petersburg and the aftermath today, with the most recent first. Times are local time in St. Petersburg (three hours ahead of UK time, eight hours ahead of New York).
SUNDAY JUNE 26
16:20: All 14 arrested have now been released. They spent 24 hours in detention. This blog is now closed. Wrap-up article is HERE.
14:50: Dmitri Musolin is released. 500 rouble fine, plus 11 July hearing on other charge. Also, Oleg Grannikov, founder of Livejournal community LGBT Grani has been released with a 500 rouble fine and second hearing on 18 July.
14.39: Chief organiser of St. Petersburg Pride and head of Equality, Yuri Gavrikov, is released. Fined 1000 rub, hearing on other charge on 11 July.
14.39: Nikolai Alekseev reports via Twitter: “I adore all who took part in Slavic Pride. Fabulous Belorusians! Amazing locals. So devoted activists.”
14.19: Nikolai Alekseev reports via Twitter: Sergei Timofeev has been released. 1000 rub fine as he was one of official organizers of the Pride. Like the others, he has to return to court on July 6.
14.08: Nikolai Alekseev reports by phone: "Alexander Sheremetyev who was beaten by the homophobe at the protest is released. His hearings are transferred to 6 July so he is not fined yet. Varvara Krasutskaya is with me out of the Court, she was also fined 500 roubles. Anna Komarova was fined 1,000 roubles on the basis that he had been arrested before in St. Petersburg.”
13.46: Nikolai Alekseev reports: “I have just been released by the court. 500 rubles fine for illegal protest and 6 July as the date of hearing on police disobedience.”
13.40: Anton Sutyagin said by phone that he is out of the Court with Varvara Krasutskaya and they are expecting a third guy to be released shortly. “It was such a night in this police cell but we did what we had to do and we will keep doing it,” said Anton, who has been regularly arrested for taking part in unsanctioned Moscow Prides in past years.
13.20: Anton Sutyagin has been released. He is out of court. Belarusian Varvara Krasutskaya is next in the court room.
13.18: Nikolai Alekseev reports from Court via Twitter: “Breaking! First court verdict. Anton Sutyagin fined 500 rub (12 euros) for illegal protest, hearing on disobedience postponed to 6 July.”
13.05: Photos from the Berlin protest yesterday have now been posted on Facebook.
13.02: Nikolai Alekseev reports from Court: “First hearing starts. Against Anton Sutyagin. He alone went inside court room. Others not allowed in.”
12.51: Nikolai Alekseev reports from inside the Court via SMS: “Police entered the court room to talk with the judge. No one else is there. You can guess the justice we might have!”
12.40: The Court hearing has not yet started the hearings.
11.56: Action Alert: Ask Hillary to speak up tomorrow for Gay Rights in Russia and against St. Petersburg Gay Pride Bashing. The Secretary of State will address an event co-hosted by the State Department and Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), on Monday, June 27 at approximately 10:25 a.m., in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State.
11.40: We were able to get on the phone with Nikolai Alekseev while he was in Court. “We have no more information. We are filling papers,” he said.
11.30: Further report from Nikolai Alekseev: “My iPad already played such a great role in my life as an activist. All I missed is a camera to send you all the photos from the police cells.”
11.20: On Twitter,
Nikolai Alekseev reports: “It was my third overnight stay in police
detention. One after Moscow Pride in 2007, one after Slavic Pride in
Moscow in 2009. It was an unbelievable night. I would say this should
be considered as torture. Cell 4 by 2 meters with wooden benches for 10
11.10: Activists have been given back their phones and they have been transferred to Court. The judge ordered a closed Court hearing. All supporters have been sent away from the Court room.
11:00: SMS message from Alexander Sheremetiev: “We are still in the cell, no info on Court hearing. It was supposed to start at 10am but it is 11am now.”
10:02: A video of yesterday's protest in Berlin in front of the Russian Embassy has been posted on YouTube,.
10:00: The Court hearings for those detained are supposed to start now, but the phone lines are silent. We have not receive any update.
9:58: Overnight, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, reacted to yesterday’s suppression of Slavic Pride. “The arrest, mistreatment and detention of LGBT activists is illegal under Russia’s constitution, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. It is alarming that this homophobic repression is taking place in Russia’s most liberal city, St Petersburg. The Council of Europe must take disciplinary action against Russia over it’s further violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Russian government must not be allowed to defy the ECHR with impunity.” Tatchell has regularly attended Pride attempts in Moscow since 2006 where he was arrested and severely beaten.
03:00: Two embedded videos of Russian TV news footage are now available online via GayBy.net (Belarus)
02:00: At the protest in Berlin yesterday evening, Volker Beck said: “Russian LGBT activists, today in St. Petersburg, and in May in Moscow are heroes that we can be proud of. The actions of the police are completely unacceptable and I expect [the German] government to explicitly address this issue in bilateral discussions with the Russian government”. Sergey Yenin, co-chair of IDAHO Belarus also took part to the protest. The demo started with an activists with the Russian LGBT Group of Germany explaining to the participants what happened today in St. Petersburg. Other speakers included representatives of trade union Verdi, LGBT group LSVD. The participants were carrying the 51 portraits of LGBT activists taken by US photographer Chad Meacham.
01:00: “It is like a torture in this cell. We cannot sleep. It is so hot. We are all wet,” says a text message received from Nikolai Alekseev in his police cell.
SATURDAY JUNE 25
23:30: Detainees managed to keep a mobile phone. They told us that they have been put in two different cells (5 in one and 9 in another). “It is suffocating in this cell and the police denied us water,” said the text message we received.
21:49: Meanwhile, in Berlin ... Maik Diekmannshemke, who attended Moscow Pride in 2010 and this year, is reporting from Berlin that about 100 people set aside the Berlin Pride celebrations and protested in front of the Russian Embassy. Among those protesting the events today in St. Petersburg was Member of Bundestag Volker Beck, who was attacked while taking part to Moscow Pride in 2006. He was also arrested in 2006 and 2007.
21:40: One of the last’ tweets’, we presume, from Nikolai Alekseev: “Starting to put people in cells. Might not be able to tweet soon.”
21:20: Alexander Sheremetiev is reported to be back at the police station from the hospital. He was said to have been diagnosed with head and lips bruises.
21:09: “Moscow ordered to keep you in detention overnight.” This is what detainees have been told by a St. Petersburg police officer. “We wanted to get rid of you but we were instructed not to do so,” added the police officer.
21:01: Those who were not arrested are bringing food to the police station for those who were arrested. Anna Komarova is giving bananas to people from Tadjikistan who have been kept in detention in this police station for three days and have not been given any food since then.
20:50: In Berlin, gay activists are wasting no time. In 10 minutes (20:00 Central European Time) a protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Is scheduled to start. The protest is organised by Norbert Blech, Maik Diekmannshemke, and Charles Meacham who were all in Moscow last month for the Pride. Berlin staged their Gay Pride (Christopher Street Day).
20:44: “They are taking all our belongings and they will put us in cells overnight so we will no longer be able to tweet and communicate. Court hearings are scheduled at 10am tomorrow but as there are 14 of us, it will probably last all the day,” Nikolai Alekseev has just said by phone.
20:20: Andy Thayer from Gay Liberation Network is asking American, and a ‘veteran’ of three Gay Prides in Moscow has just said that he is calling the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. “Gay Pride demonstrators brutally attacked & arrested in St Petersburg, Russia – facing poss 15 days in jail. Flood Russian embassy with calls to protest: 202-338-3263,” Thayer has posted on Facebook. Thayer was among those arrested at Moscow Pride last month.
20:18: “Call the Embassy of your country in Moscow and protest” – that’s the word coming from those arrested from the police station.
19:08: The thug who attacked Alexander Sheremetev has now been released and has been seen trying to disrupt the action by feminists, Alekseev has just tweeted. Alekseev has also said that he and the 11 other activists will be kept in police cells overnight before appearing in court tomorrow.
19:00: Alexander Sheremetev, one of the organisesr who was attacked by a homophobe during the action (photo of the attack is above) has been taken to hospital in an emergency under police escort.
18:55: “It is looking as if we will be in militia custody until court hearing tomorrow morning,” Nikolai Alekseev tweeted from the police station. Follow him on Twitter @n_alexeyev
17:55: Nikolai Alekseev reports that he is with others in one room while trans rights activist Anna Komarova is in a cell without access to mobile phone.
17:09: The activists have been formally charged with organising an illegal public action and for disobeying police orders. They could be sentence by a judge to a jail term of 15 days.
17:00: In 20 minutes, the three hours maximum detention limit will end. Police will have to notify their charges to those who were arrested.
16:55: Several activists including Anna Komarova, were taken to the police cell and their mobile phones were taken from them.
16:25: The police said the activists will be charged with organising an illegal action but perhaps also of resisting police order. This second charge could lead to a 15-day prison sentence.
16:15: Those arrested said they might be taken to Court shortly. They are still at the Police station.
15:50: Renting a boat and decorating it with a rainbow flag was not difficult, one of the organizers said. “We just went to the owner last night, explaining the plan and he just told us, as long as you pay me, I can go around as much as you like.”
15:45: The IDAHO Committee is the first NGO to react. Louis-Georges Tin its President delayed his participation in today’s Paris Gay Pride to call the French Foreign Affairs Ministry asking for a reaction of the French government . In a press-release, Mr Tin is drawing a parallel between the Paris Gay Pride which takes place today under the sun and the faith of the Russian activists in St. Petersburg who have been arrested and beaten. He is demanding that the French government calls on the Russian authorities to immediately released those who have been arrested.
15:15: Nikolai Alekseev is tweeting to President Medvedev: “Mr President, heartfelt greetings from Police captain Valery Alexandrovich of Division # 2 Admiralty District”!
14:55 Alexander Sheremetev, one of the organizers of Slavic Pride was beaten by a homophobe at the protest. His attacker has also been arrested.
14:50: Three Belarusians and 11 Russians have been arrested. Numbers are confirmed by the police station.
14:47: Nikolai Alekseev reports that after he told the police he will tweet about the beating of Alexey Kiselev inside the police station, the police replied to him: “Please tweet hello from me to Dmitri Medvedev”
14:45: The Russian Gay blogger who blogs at Live Journal Community LGBT_Grani was also arrested.
14:40: Anna Komarova reports that Alexey Kiselev was beaten by a police officer inside the police station.
14:25: Among those arrested are participants from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Minsk.
14:14: From the police van, Nikolai Alekseev explains: “We had a Pride of two minutes before being arrested and a homophobe started to attack us.” Only a few anti-gay protesters showed up – far less than for an anti-gay demonstration which was allowed a week ago. And also, much less than a month ago in Moscow for the sixth banned Moscow Pride.
14:10: Media are interviewing a few homophobes who showed up to protest. Pride participants are in two different police buses, waiting to be taken to the Central Police Station.
14:09: A total of 14 LGBT activists have been arrested. They were put in two different police vans. “We are sitting in the police van with Anton, Sergey and Anna while others are arrested in another bus,” Nikolai Alekseev says by phone.
14:05: Police have arrested a homophobe and are taking him to a police van. As he is being put into the van, he is giving Nikolai Alekseev ‘the finger’ While entering the van, he is showing Nikolai Alekseev with the finger and said “If you put me with him, I will kill him”. He is finally put in the same bus but in a separate compartment.
14:02: Everyone with a banner has been arrested. A very short action but participants have been able to waive their slogans in front of a large group of photo correspondents, TV crews and journalists.
14:00: A second group started to unveil banners and flags shooting slogans “No to homophobia” or “Equal Rights”. A poster carried by trans activist Anna Komarova showed “Trans Rights are Human Rights”, one carried by Nikolai Alekseev played with the rumour that St Petersburg governor is alcoholic: “Alcoholism is a disease, homosexuality is not”. An another one carried which cannot be translated said “сосуЛИ Я? Тебя волнует?”
13:45: A first group is celebrating Pride on a boat, waiving Rainbow flags in front of the Statue to Peter the Great which is located near the river Neva. The boat is passing and tourists are taking photos of the participants waving their flags from the boat.
13:44: Pride participants said that two dozen policemen are standing near the monument to Peter the Great. The action has not yet started.
13:43: Anti-Gay groups which have been allowed by the city hall to stage an anti-gay protest a week ago did not show up – yet.
13:20: Details of the action are known to GayRussia but for safety reasons, we cannot write about it... a few more minutes to wait.
13:15: Participants are on their way to the banned Slavic Pride...
12:45: A witness reports a lot of police near the monument to Peter the Great in central St. Petersburg. Skinhead groups have not yet been seen. The action is due to start in 75 minutes from now.
11:15: St. Petersburg Governor, Valentina Matvienko, is expected to get a promotion soon. She is the first woman to become the head of a Region and might soon become the Speaker of the Federation Council. Russian President Medvedev, who said that he likes this idea, pointed out that she has been “absolutely successful” in her job as governor. Really? A promotion for banning peaceful event in the city in contradiction with the constitution?
10:35: Nice weather over St. Petersburg today. The city is enjoying what is called white nights. During this time of the year, there is light until very late at night.
10:00: Everyone is at work, preparing the last slogans and banners which will be used for the action later at 2pm.SEE ALSO
Controversy Over Gay Rights In Moscow City Hall?. The deputy mayor of Moscow has promised to change the homophobic image of the city in the eyes of foreigners – and he appears in direct contradiction with the Mayor. (UK Gay News, June 23, 2011)
St Petersburg Bans Slavic Gay Pride Parade but OKs Anti Gay Rally. City authorities in St. Petersburg have again banned a planned Gay Pride Parade. But they gave the go-ahead for an anti-gay rally in the city which was staged at the weekend. (UK Gay News, June 20, 2011)
Reflections on Moscow Gay Pride and Why I am Organising a Protest at the London Embassy. By Peter Gray. The Russian Constitution, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, grants every Russian the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. On May 28 2011 these rights were again denied to the LGBT community in Moscow for the sixth year in a row. (UK Gay News, June 14, 2011)
Moscow Police Collude With Neo-Nazis at Moscow Gay Pride. By Peter Tatchell. We witnessed a high level of fraternisation and collusion between neo-Nazis and the Moscow police. I saw neo-Nazis leave and re-enter police buses parked on Tverskaya Street by City Hall. (UK Gay News, May 28, 2011)
Moscow Gay Pride - Our Annual Blog More or less as it happend, the low-down from Moscow Gay Pride. (UK Gay News, May 25, 2011)