Gay activists were attacked and arrested on Saturday while trying to hold a banned Pride parade in central Moscow.
The group of Pride participants, holding up gay flags and signs reading “Russia is not Iran” and “Russia without homophobia”, were harassed and attacked by right-wing and religious orthodox anti-gay protestors outside City Hall, near the Kremlin wall.
“I went to City Hall but was separated from our protest group,” said British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Neo-Nazis identified me for attack. Being alone and without police protection, I had to escape down side streets and alleyways to avoid a beating.”
Police stepped in and arrested a number of people, including international gay rights supporters Andy Thayer, Dan Choi and Louis-Georges Tin, as well as Moscow gay Pride committee member Anna Komarova and other Russian gay activists.
According to Tatchell, Choi, a former US military officer who was dismissed from the American armed forces because of his homosexuality, “was violently manhandled by police. He was wrestled to the ground and punched.”
Choi later tweeted with his cell phone from a jail cell that he had ringing and minor bleeding in his right ear but was otherwise well.
Police collusion with Neo-Nazis?
Head Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was not arrested and was said to be in a ‘safe house’. He did not participate in the parade due to a leg injury.
Tatchell accused the police of colluding in the attack against Pride activists, saying that he witnessed fraternisation and collusion between the anti-gay demonstrators and the Moscow police.
“I saw neo-Nazis leave and re-enter police buses parked on Tverskaya Street by City Hall,” said Tatchell.
“Our suspicion is that many of the neo-Nazis were actually plainclothes police officers, who did to us what their uniformed colleagues dared not do in front of the world’s media. Either that, or the police were actively facilitating the right-wing extremists with transport to the protest.”
Moscow police announced that a total of 18 gay activists and 14 Pride opponents had been arrested. UK Gay news reported that by 8pm on Saturday all Pride participants had been released and there were no serious injuries reported.
City authorities have repeatedly refused to issue licenses to hold gay Pride parades in the city for six years, citing security concerns, negative public opinion and even claims that children would be psychologically damaged if they witnessed the event.
Moscow’s former mayor previously described gay Pride parades as “satanic”.
Watch video footage below of police and anti-gay protestors disrupting Saturday’s Moscow Pride event.