Belarusian authorities ban gay rights protest in Minsk

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Officials in Belarus have refused permission for a protest outside the Russian embassy in the capital Minsk.

Organisers of the gay picket applied to the city council for permission on October 9th.

The Byelorussian Initiative Group for gender and sexual equality wanted to protest against the “growing number” of hate crimes in the neighbouring country of Russia.

However, they have now been told by Mikhail Titenkov, a deputy chairman of the Minsk City Council, that “the City Council will not allow a picket in front of the Russian Embassy in Minsk because the application had not been done within the frameworks of the National Law on mass events.”

The gay protesters said they wanted to draw attention to “a growing number of cases of violation of the rights of LGBT people in the neighbouring country, groundless police raids on gay clubs, mass detention and insults to gays and lesbians and the official ban to hold the international gay cinema festival Bok o Bok (Side by Side) in Saint Petersburg.”

Belarusian LGBT community activists still plan to hand over a letter to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Embassy officials and to demand an official explanation of this ban from City Mayor of Minsk.

The Bok o Bok festival attracted homophobic comments from leading intellectuals in Russia last month.

The state Cinema House and in the private cinema PIK both agreed to screen films and then withdrew.

Organisers were going to show films in two nightclubs, but they were ruled unacceptable venues by the fire authorities.

Russian gay activist Nicolas Alexeyev said:

“Russian authorities continue their policy of homophobia and arbitrary unlawful actions by preventing events organised behind closed doors in private places.

“From the very first day I supported the conduct of this film festival in Saint Petersburg but already in February I expressed my fears that the authorities will stop the event on technical reasons at the very last minute.

“The only major LGBT event that could be organised over the last years in Russia are the May 2006 and May 2007 LGBT conference that where held during the Moscow Pride Festival at the Moscow Swissotel.

“And still, it is only because we booked conference rooms in a local five star hotel belonging to foreign interests that authorities were not able to play the same game with us.”

Conservatives within the country’s artistic community had called for the film festival to be banned.

The State Artist of Russia Nikolai Burlyaev publicly called gay people “perverts” and homosexuality a “sin” and an “illness” and demanded St Petersburg authorities stop the event.