Moscow gays to defy police and neo-Nazi threats

Gay Pride marchers risk arrest and violent attack
Gay Pride is banned, in defiance of European Court of Human Rights

Moscow Gay Pride Parade 2011
* 1pm, Saturday 28 May, The Kremlin, at the gates to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Alexandersky Gardens.
* 1.30pm, march to Moscow City Hall, Tverskaya Street.

London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will join tomorrow’s banned Moscow Gay Pride parade, in solidarity with Russia’s beleaguered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“We expect to bashed by neo-Nazis. They have pledged to attack the parade. The Moscow police are refusing to protect us. The possibility of sustaining serious injuries is a worry. Russian neo-Nazis have previously murdered other protesters. The police have vowed to arrest us. In particular, the Russian LGBT marchers are at risk of harsh treatment and punishment,” warned Mr Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“We are fearful but determined. Despite the risks to us personally, the human rights of gay Russians must be defended. By defying this ban, we are defending the right of all Russians to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. We express our support for every Russian person whose right to protest has been denied. As well as defending gay human rights, we defend the human rights of all Russia’s minorities, including Jewish, Black, Roma, Asian and Muslim people,” said Mr Tatchell.

Actor Sir Ian McKellen and pop singer Jimmy Sommerville have sent messages of support to Moscow Gay Pride, strongly criticising the Mayor of Moscow for banning the parade.

Mr McKellen’s statement will be read out by Peter Tatchell at the Moscow Gay Pride news conference today, Friday 27 May, in Moscow. It says:

“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. In the 1980s, Mrs Thatcher once did the same in the United Kingdom but she was eventually defeated totally by the efforts of gay people, their families and friends, who joined together to fight injustice. I send my heart-felt support for your bravery in marching on 28 May in the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev and Nureyev. Good luck.”

This is the message Jimmy Somerville sent to Peter Tatchell and Nikolai Alekseev, chief organiser of Moscow Gay Pride:

“I want to send a message to all of you who’ll be marching on Saturday: “You and me together, fighting for our love.” The Moscow mayor is a coward and anyone who marches against his reactionary and homophobic decree, is a brave and admirable person. The freedom to live our lives and love who we choose is a fundamental human right. Shame on you, the Russian political establishment! WE ARE HERE AND WE”RE NOT GOING AWAY! Be STRONG, Be PROUD and Be GAY ON THE DAY!”

“LGBT Russians are very grateful to have the support of Ian McKellen and Jimmy Somerville. Their criticism of the Moscow mayor’s appeasement of homophobes is spot on. It is a disgrace that the mayor of a great city like Moscow is suppressing a peaceful Gay Pride parade, which is lawful under the Russian constitution and legal system. The banning of Moscow Gay Pride is even more shocking, given that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the ban is illegal,” said Mr Tatchell.

The Council of Europe’s Secretary General and Commissioner for Human Rights, respectively Thorbjorn Jagland and Thomas Hammarberg, have both condemned the ban on Moscow Gay Pride.

A statement released on behalf of Mr Jagland, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, said:

“The Council of Europe calls on authorities in Moscow to respect the rights of gays and lesbians and to facilitate peaceful demonstrations in a non-discriminatory manner.”

The Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Hammarberg, said:

“I would like to recall that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights in a democratic society and they belong to all people. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in two judgments against unlawful restrictions or bans running counter to the exercise of freedom of assembly by LGBT persons in the context of the organisation of Pride parades. Peaceful demonstrations cannot be banned simply because of hostile attitudes to the demonstrators or to the causes they advocate. The State also has a duty to protect the participants in peaceful demonstrations including when they hold unpopular views or belong to minorities.”

“There will be attempts to remove Russia’s voting rights in the Council of Europe if the march is banned and the participants are arrested, given that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the ban is illegal and that Russia must allow Moscow Gay Pride to proceed,” warned Mr Tatchell.