Russian authorities, making use of St. Petersburg’s ban on the promotion of homosexuality, have once again broken up efforts to hold gay rights demonstrations, reportedly arresting eight protesters this weekend.
Three rally organizers were arrested Saturday at a park in Russia’s second city, and five others were detained at a later rally attempt near the landmark Smolny complex, Russian news agencies reported.
Only six people showed up for the second rally, and the three arrested at the first attempt were the only participants.
St. Petersburg’s administration signed into law in February a ban on the “promotion of homosexuality” in the public sphere, supposedly to protect minors. For breaking this law there is a fine of 5,000 rubles ($170) for individuals, and for officials 50,000 rubles ($1,725). The fine for legal entities is 500,000 rubles ($17,250).
These arrests come after permission to hold demonstrations in other cities was revoked, supposedly because the authorities had received word that demonstrations might also occur in St. Petersburg, contrary to the local ban.
“The goal of the event is to attract the attention of the public and the authorities to violations of civil rights of the LGBT community and to the need to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination over sexual orientation. But according to information in the press, the organizers of the event plan to hold the third gay pride parade in St. Petersburg,” the city committee on law and security said in a statement.
According to the authorities, residents of the city believe this event is “aimed at promoting homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender practices among minors.” That is why the permission has been revoked; authorities received “many phone calls and e-mails both from St. Petersburg and other Russian cities with requests to cancel the gay pride parade.”
LGBT rights groups point out that the authorities seem to have used a belief that a protest may happen in St. Petersburg to ban citizens from protesting in other regions–that other territories are in essence borrowing the chilling effect from St. Petersburg’s ban without even having passed legislation of their own.
The Russian courts have prosecuted at least one person under the law, but they have also noted that the law is extremely vague in its idea of what constitutes an offense, which seems to be any and all protestation to do with LGBT rights, something that runs in direct defiance of EU human rights standards.
The European Union has already adopted a resolution “strongly” condemning the law.
The Russian Duma, urged on by the religious orthodoxy, has now moved to take up a national ban similar to those found in St Petersburg, Siberia, and other territories.