For the first time ever, a gay pride march has taken place in Moscow without the marchers being assaulted or arrested (or both).
You may recall previous attempts to have Gay Pride marches in the Russian capital. In 2007, they marched to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. From all accounts, the Moscow police held back long enough for Neo Nazis to beat several marchers senseless, and then took over themselves.
Moscow Pride 2007 is one of the reasons UK activist Peter Tatchell has permanent brain damage.
Finally on May 29, 2010, a successful parade was held. It lasted fewer than 10 minutes, and in order to avoid police or protest interference, they released a false location (the Office of the European Commission) at a press event on May 27th. Despite the mayor banning the parade, and the violence that many of the activists have experienced over the years, it went ahead.
The group chose some journalists to bring along with them. In order to retain the secrecy of the location they met the journalists at a pre-arranged location and walked around with them for several hours until the parade was about to start and all the marchers and activists suddenly converged on a single location.
The 20 metre flag they carried along their parade route was made in Minsk. They route they took started at Belarusakaya train station (that links Moscow and Minsk) and they travelled along the route to St. Petersburg. The route was symbolic of the connection between Minsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg, as they are all members of Slavic Pride, an alliance conceived in 2009 by Russian and Belarusian activists.
American activist Andy Thayer had this to say about the efforts Russian activists have made over the years, and the lack of help coming from the embassies of more liberal countries.
After nearly five years’ experience organizing Pride events despite government bans and unofficial threats of violence, Moscow Pride activists run a very tight ship. They made direct appeals to the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany, Britain, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the European Union. “All responded negatively,” said Alekseev.
Of course none of them said the rejections came because of the economic power that Russia wields. “We already organized everything with the Danish,” said Alekseev. “It was just a question of who was going to cook during the party, and then they sent us an email” revoking the invitation.
The French said “’Our embassy is the house of human rights. You can find yourselves welcome here,’ but as soon as I asked them about hosting a pride reception in the grounds of the embassy, they said, ‘No, no, we cannot do it for a particular organization.’ Almost the same reply came from the ambassador of the European Union.”
So here we are less than 24 hours before Moscow Pride, the Western embassies’ cowardice on full display in contrast to the courage of Russian and Belorussian gay activists. When Moscow Pride occurs tomorrow, it will be no thanks to the “freedom loving” Western governments.