Arrests and violent attacks have marred Sunday’s attempted Moscow gay Pride march, while 15 to 20 marchers were arrested by police.
British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Right Said Fred band-member Richard Fairbrass were among several Gay Pride marchers who were beaten by gangs of neo-Nazis, nationalist extremists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists.
The organiser of Moscow Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, was detained overnight at Moscow’s Tverskoi district police station, together with two prominent members of Russia’s Radical and Free Radical parties, Nikolai Khramov and Sergei Konstantinov.
“There is no rule of law in Moscow. The right to protest does not exist. This is not a democracy,” said Tatchell. “Today’s protest was about much more than gay rights. We were defending the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest for all Russians, gay and straight.”
The arrests and assaults took place in front of and opposite Moscow City Hall, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners assembled to hold Moscow’s Gay Pride march, which had been banned by the authorities.
Alekseev and German Green Party Member of Parliament Volker Beck were the first to be arrested as they attempted to deliver a letter to Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, at City Hall.
“After they were driven away in a police bus, marauding gangs of right-wing extremists infiltrated the Gay Pride crowd and began indiscriminately attacking participants. The Moscow police looked on and did nothing,” reported Tatchell.
Soon afterwards, Tatchell unfurled a placard reading, “Gay Rights,” written in both Russian and English. He was set upon and repeatedly bashed by right-wing extremists. Moscow riot police, the OMON, allegedly stood by while attackers punched him in the face, dragged him to the ground, and kicked him all over his body.
Clutching a bloody eye, he was arrested by the riot police. “They arrested me, but let my attackers walk free,” said Tatchell. “The Moscow police gave right-wing extremists a more or less free hand to attack Gay Pride marchers. Despite many of us being battered left, right and center, the police only arrested a handful of the assailants.”
Following his arrest, Tatchell was dragged to a police bus, where he was put in the intimidating situation of being detained with three neo-Nazis, who had been arrested for other assaults.
While in the bus, Tatchell says he was taunted by members of the riot police.
Soon afterwards, the police also brought to the bus the arrested Member of the European Parliament Marco Cappato, of the Italian Radical Party; Ottavio Marzocchi, a Radical Party European Parliament administrator; and two Russian transgender activists.
Later Tatchell was transferred to an ambulance and taken to hospital where he was treated for injuries to his right eye. He has filed a complaint with the Moscow police about the assault on him, requesting that officers investigate and arrest the assailants. At this stage, it appears Tatchell is being treated as a witness to the attack on him, rather than as a suspect.
Tatchell had traveled to Moscow at the request of the Moscow Gay Pride organizers to support the event and the campaign for gay rights in Russia. He was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the Moscow Gay Pride conference on Saturday morning, 26 May 2007 at the Swissotel.
In January, Moscow’s Mayor, Yury Luzhkov, said that he would never allow gay Pride parades in the city, labeling them as satanic.
An attempt to hold a parade in Moscow in 2006 was also faced with official and religious opposition. Authorities imposed a ban saying that they feared that the event would incite violence. The parade went ahead and participants were then attacked by Neo-Nazi protestors.
Reporting by Peter Tatchell / Mambaonline reporter