Moscow pride- an eye witness account

The human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of gay rights group OutRage! offers his own personal account of the Moscow gay pride march.

The Mayor of Moscow said gay pride would never happen while he was alive. He mobilised a quarter of the Moscow police, over 1,000 officers, to prevent the gay parade. Despite all his efforts, lesbian and gay Russians – and their international supporters – gathered by the Kremlin in Manezhnaya Square.

We were immediately set-upon by about 100 fascist thugs and religious fanatics who began pushing, punching and kicking us.

They snatched flowers out of our hands and abused us with chants of ‘No sodomy in Moscow’ and ‘Put the pederasts on the iron’ and ‘Russia is not Sodom’. We were pushed and carried like corks on a sea of fascist pushing and shoving.

Russian gay leader Nikolai Alekseev was arrested and put in a police van. The rest of us were forced out of Manezhnaya Square by lines of militia and police. Some individual protesters were surrounded, abused and attacked by gangs of fascists.

Most of us re-assembled on the edge of Manezhnaya Square. Groups of roaming neo-Nazis stormed around the square looks for gays and lesbians to attack. We had to look inconspicuous to avoid being beaten.

Then, some of the fascists threw tear gas cannisters and formed a line with the police to block our exit from Manezhnaya Square. A group of about 15 of us assembled and left by a different exit.

We then made our way through the back streets to the Yuri Dolgoruky monument where Moscow Gay Pride was due to reassemble and cross the road to city hall, where we were going to stage our protest for gay rights and against the the Mayor’s ban.

At the monument we met up with anther 20 LGBT protesters. They had been attacked by fascists, but by the time we arrived the helmeted riot police had pushed them back into the Tverskaya Street.

Soon after reassembling at the monument, another line of riot police came and drove us out of the square, straight into an oncoming posse of fascists.

Fortunately, we were all in ones and twos – and they didn’t recognise us. Most of us got split up, but 15 of us managed to reassemble at the nearby Bar Gogol.

This first Moscow Pride took place, but not as we had planned it -thanks to the combined opposition of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the neo-Nazis. The Mayor’s homophobia created the atmosphere which gave a green light to the fascists to attack the Moscow Pride participants.

The anti-gay violence and intimidation we experienced shows precisely why Moscow Pride is necessary.

The repression of a handful of lesbian and gay protesters signifies the fear and weakness of the Russian state. We had a moral and political victory, forcing the Moscow authorities to unleash forces of repression comparable with the bad old days of the Soviet era.

It is a back-handed compliment that the Moscow Mayor regards gay people as such a threat that we have to be banned and suppressed.

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