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May 27, 2006

MOSCOW INT'L GAY CONFERENCE ATTACKED BY GAS -- 1000 Police Sent to Stop Gay Pride March

The international conference organized in connection with Moscow's first-ever GayMoscow_pride_logo_1  Pride March --scheduled for today (Saturday, May 27) -- has been attacked by gas-spraying hoodlums. Saturday's Times of London reports, that, at the opening session of the international conference, during an address by Oscar Wilde's grandson, Merlin_holland_298_1 Merlin Holland (left), "As Mr Holland delivered his opening lecture, about 20 skinheads burst into the hall, screaming abuse, throwing eggs and spraying an unidentified gas." In a constantly updated Moscow diary being published online by the Washington Blade, Scott Long -- director of LGBT affairs for Human Rights Watch, photo right -Scottlong - is providing several times a day a running account of what's happening in Moscow at, and to, the historic gay events. You can read Scott's fascinating online Moscow diary by clicking here. The Moscow events are taking place under the cloud of a ban on them by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and calls for anti-gay violence by Russia's religious leaders.. And U.K. Gay News reports this morning that Moscow city authorities say 1000 police have been deployed to stop the Pride march. In yesterday's Gay City News (New York City's largest gay weekly) I published an account of the latest ukase by Moscow city authorities, banning not just the Pride march but the gay meetings in connection with it. For background on all this, you can read my GCN article below:

Gay Standoff Brewing in Moscow

By DOUG IRELAND

Yuri_lushkov_168_1 In yet another blow to organizers of Moscow’s first-ever Gay Pride March, scheduled for May 27—previously banned by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (left) in an April announcement—city authorities this week said that the conferences and festival planned by Pride organizers would also be banned.

In announcing the ban on any of the gatherings, Moscow’s chief of security, Nikolau Kulikov, told the Echo Moskvy radio station on May 21 that “all public expressions [by gays and lesbians] must be banned. They violate our rights. We have our traditions, lots of religious groups told us that they were against this Gay Pride.”

Activities ancillary to the Pride March—which organizers insist will be held despite the ban on the demonstration—include an international conference on homophobia co-sponsored by GayRussia.ru and the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). Among the scheduled speakers at that conference is Merlin Holland, the grandson of Oscar Wilde.

Nicolas_alexeyev_1 Nicolas Alexeyev, one of the principal organizers of Moscow Pride, (in rainbow t-shirt photo left, with former French Culture Minister Jack Long) told Gay City News from Russia, “In all, from abroad we expect 100 participants from 20 different countries.”

The ban comes as Russia last Friday assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe. Founded in 1949, the Council has 46 member countries and is composed of their foreign ministers. While the Council is a separate entity from the 25-member European Union, no country has ever been granted EU membership without first being a member of the Council. At its quadrennial summit meting held in Warsaw last year, the Council of Europe adopted a political declaration making its first priority “promoting the common fundamental values of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy,” according to the Council’s Web site.

A number of European politicians have announced their intention to go to Moscow toSophie_in_t_veld_2  participate in the Pride March, including members of the European Parliament from several countries. One of the Parliament members, Sophie in ‘t Veld of The Netherlands (right), said of the ban on gay activities, “This is a very unfavorable start to the Russian chairmanship in the Council of Europe.”

Bertrand_delanoe The openly gay mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe (left), is sending two representatives, including a vice mayor, to the Moscow Pride events. Openly gay German member of Parliament Volker BeckVolker_beck  (right)—the former spokesman for the German gay rights group LVSD, who is considered the father of Germany’s domestic partnership legislation—will also make the trip to Moscow.

Jack_lang_best_4 Last week, Jack Lang (left)—France’s former minister of culture and also of education under the late President Francois Mitterand, who is a declared candidate for the Socialist Party’s 2007 presidential nomination—told Moscow Pride organizers that he would also travel there to join the march. Last Thursday, Lang released a personal letter he’d written to Russian President Vladimir Putin denouncing both the actions of Mayor Luzhkov in banning the march and the “unacceptable threats of violence by religious authorities” against the gay participants, Agence France Presse reported. In his letter to Putin, Lang—consistently one of France’s most popular politicians according to public opinion polls—declared that he felt “personally insulted by the attitude and statements of the mayor of Moscow and these religious leaders.”

The grand mufti of Russia’s Muslims, Talgat Tajuddin (right), had earlier called for the gay Talgat_tajuddin_2_1 marchers to be “beaten” by believers, and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church had publicly condemned the Gay Pride festivities as a “sexual perversion.”

Berl_lazar_1 Russia’s chief rabbi, Berl Lazar (left), said that if the Pride Parade were allowed to go ahead it would be a “blow to morality,” adding that “sexual perversions” do not have the right to exist.

At the beginning of May, hundreds of Russian neo-fascist skinheads and Russian Orthodox Christians bearing icons and crosses attacked gay men and lesbians arriving at parties at two Moscow nightclubs, throwing bottles, rocks, and eggs and forcing the cancellation of both gatherings. Moscow police were tardy to arrive, but eventually made 39 arrests in the two incidents.

Pride organizer Alexeyev told Gay City News that plans have been made to protect Pride participants against violence.

“We have already ordered full security for all the events of the Pride festival. And we have paid extra for that,” he said. b“All the six events will be protected by private security or the police. I will not let anyone disrupt anything. The world is watching us.”

Human Rights Watch has condemned these latest violent attacks on Russian gays and called for the bans to be revoked, telling Mayor Luzhkov that he “can stand up to protect human rights, or endorse the views of extremists responsible for anti-gay violence.”

HRW’s Director of LGBT Affairs, Scott Long, will make the trip to Moscow to join the Pride activities.

In a separate letter to Luzhkov, Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, wrote, “We remind you that your active support for the Pride Parade in Moscow is a critical component of your obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all citizens in Russia, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens who make up your constituency.”

At the group’s 2006 Human Rights Awards in Manhattan Tuesday evening, Ettelbrick said IGLHRC would be represented in Moscow as well.

In sharp contrast, neither the Human Rights Campaign nor the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has even issued a press release in solidarity with Moscow’s gays under attack and these groups have no plans to send representatives there.

Moscow Pride organizers are appealing the bans on their activities in the city’s courts. Regardless of the bans, Alexeyev told Gay City News, “The Russian Constitution guarantees our right to demonstrate, so on May 27 we will be in the center of Moscow celebrating the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of same-sex relations in Russia.”

UPDATE: MOSCOW COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON GAY MARCH After the above article was published, a Moscow district court on Friday upheld a ban imposed by the city government on the Gay Pride parade slated to have been held Saturday in the Russian capital. The Tverskoi district court rejected an appeal by event organizers against the Moscow city government's decision to prohibit the event, scheduled for May 27.

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