An attempt by activists to protest a ban on LGBTQ Pride in St Petersburg was blocked by police who arrested 30 of the participants.
The protesters defied the ban and assembled at the city’s Palace Square on Saturday, some holding rainbow flags and placards, to speak out in support of freedom of association and the LGBTQ community.
Standing separately from each other so as not to constitute a gathering, they held “solo pickets” which under Russian law do not need permission to take place.
A protester held up a placard that read: “My mom loves me, my dad loves me, my friends love me, why cannot you?”
Police seized the demonstrators and dragged them one by one into a police van. An individual holding a rainbow flag was picked up by three police officers and carried away.
An activists called Sobi told Euronews: “I am very tired of the discrimination and the thought that I’m not allowed to walk out and say I feel bad about it. My country doesn’t want to hear that I feel bad, it doesn’t care.”
According to journalist and pro-democracy activist Yevgenia Litvinova, the protesters were taken to a number of police stations.
Russia was ordered to pay the applicants damages, costs and expenses. The ruling, however, made no practical difference in the country’s continued clampdown on free speech and expression.
Pride parades have been repeatedly banned across Russia on the basis of the 2013 law signed by President Putin prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships. The “gay propaganda” law effectively bars any expression or discussion of homosexuality in public, on television, in print or on the internet.
The law has been blamed for increased anti-gay sentiment, discrimination and violence against members of the LGBTQ community.
The authorities in Chechnya, a semi-antonymous Russian republic, have been accused of rounding up gay men, detaining and torturing them in secret facilities, and in some cases murdering them. More than a year after the first reported incidents, no action has been taken against the deadly clampdown.