Monday, May 28, 2007

Violence Again Erupts at Moscow Gay Pride Events

Ultra-nationalists, members of the Russian Orthodox Church and others attacked activists and politicians with eggs, stones and fists yesterday as they tried to deliver a petition to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to demand their right to hold a gay Pride celebration in the Russian capital. Protesters violently attacked British gay activist Peter Tatchell, Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass, German MEP Volker Beck and others as Moscow police apparently stood by and watched. Authorities later detained them alongside Italian MEP Marco Cappato, Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev and more than two dozen others.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle, the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald and other media outlets across the world documented the violence. Openly gay London Mayor Ken Livingstone, openly gay Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and other European politicians quickly condemned the attacks as "sad," "unacceptable violence" and "a travesty to democracy." Dutch MEP Sophie Int'Veld told the Moscow News the European Union must address the continued violence against gay and lesbian Russians.

Homophobia remains widespread despite Russia's decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993. Luzhkov, who has repeatedly described gay Pride marches as 'satanic,' banned such gatherings in Moscow. Activists faced violent anti-gay protesters last year as they held their first march in defiance of the ban and of the authorities. The same situation played out again yesterday before the eyes of the world. Luzhkov, and to a greater extend Russian President Vladimir Putin, continue to disregard the rights of their own citizens. Activists within the European Union continue to call upon their own governments to challenge Putin on these continued abuses at next month's G8 summit in Germany. This weekend's violence remains a shocking reminder of the peril many Russians face within their own country. Their government continues to have blood on its hands as the world's media documented all too clearly. The European Union, the United States and other countries that claim to defend human rights and dignity must pressure Russia to protect all of its citizens. Their collective conscience mandates them to do so.

Right Said Fred front man Richard Fairbrass after anti-gay protesters assaulted him during the gay Pride events in Moscow

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