London protest planned for Russian conductor who says anti-gay laws protect ‘children from paedophiles’

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Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is organising a public demonstration to be held this Thursday outside the Barbican against conductor Valery Gergiev, a friend of Vladimir Putin who supports the country’s anti-gay laws.

According to the classical music blog Orpheus Complex, in September, Gergiev spoke to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant and gave a robust defence of Russia’s anti-gay laws. He said: “In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia. But I have too busy a schedule to explore this matter in detail.”

The demonstration is scheduled to take place outside the Barbican on Thursday from 5pm-6pm. Gergiev is due to lead the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in a performance of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz – about a scholar who gets too close to the devil.

The 60-year-old has been artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg for more than 25 years and principal conductor of the LSO since 2007.

In subsequent interviews, Gergiev stated that his theatre has never discriminated against anyone.

The conductor supported the decision to jail punk rock feminist band Pussy Riot.

Last Thursday, Peter Tatchell attempted to disrupt the opening night of Gergiev’s concert by walking on stage and telling the audience: “Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.”

Mr Tatchell was then taken off stage by security staff.

The Barbican is keen to avoid future disruptions. A Barbican spokesperson said: “We believe in the right to free speech and people are permitted to protest and make their views known. However, alongside the LSO, we respectfully ask that these protests happen outside the concert hall and anyone disrupting concerts will be asked to leave for the benefit of other audience members.

“The Barbican actively promotes and celebrates diversity in all our work; from our world class arts and learning programme that serves an increasingly wide audience to our commitment to maintaining a diverse workforce and promoting a robust equal opportunities policy that ensures equality and fairness in the treatment of all our employees.”

Russia has been dominating the news agenda today.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International condemned last weekend’s homophobic attack on a St Petersburg HIV support group, resulting in a man being shot in the eye.

The victim is now blind in the damaged eye.

Elsewhere, campaign group All Out has released a new video designed to raise awareness of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws by asking what would happen if a gay athlete wins gold at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The two-minute film shows a fictional lesbian figure skater emotionally looking at her girlfriend after winning a medal.

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