Sir Ian McKellen
As activists prepare to hold Moscow Pride in the face of an official ban this weekend, actor Sir Ian McKellen has branded the city’s mayor a coward.
The openly-gay Lord of the Rings actor and activist issued a statement supporting organisers and slammed Mayor Sergei Sobyanin for not allowing the event to go ahead on Saturday.
“The Mayor of Moscow is a coward. Rather than face the fact that Muscovite gays and lesbians should be valued on a par with their straight peers, he panders to the right wing. He throws them some red meat, some gays, to gnaw on,” said McKellen.
“In the 1980s, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once did the same in the United Kingdom, but she was eventually defeated totally by the efforts of gay people, with their families and friends, who joined together to fight injustice.”
Participants face arrest and violence
“I send my heart-felt support for your bravery in marching on 28 May in the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev and Nureyev,” said McKellen, adding: “good luck.”
This is the sixth year that Moscow city authorities have refused to issued a licence for Pride to take place, but organisers are determined to go ahead on Saturday. The event will be attended by British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell and US ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ campaigner Dan Choi.
The Pride participants face being arrested by the authorities as well as violence from right-wing and religious anti-gay protestors who were given official permission to hold an anti-gay demonstration on the same day.
“We will drive them off!” Yury Ageshchev, from the Orthodox Brotherhood of the Russian Orthodox Church told Russian newspaper Kommersant, adding” “It’s going to get hot.”
Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasburg, has condemned the Moscow Pride ban which is in direct contravention of a European Court of Human Rights ruling last year.