Following the arrests of around 30 people at last Saturday’s unauthorized Moscow Pride, among them a handful of Americans including DADT discharged soldier Dan Choi, the U.S. State Department has issued a statement of “concern” surrounding the events.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said:
“We note with concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counterprotesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protesters were seriously injured according to media reports. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit. As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process. We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms.”
Allegations that police worked in tandem with neo-Nazi groups to break up the Pride event persist, and as more nations condemn the Moscow authorities’ actions, there is also a growing demand for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to condemn Saturday’s crackdown on the Pride gathering.
As previously reported, early hopes were that Moscow Pride would be sanctioned by Moscow City Hall’s new administration.
This follows an October 2010 decision in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that banning Moscow Pride events, as was the case between 2006-2008, breached three separate articles of the European Convention which guarantees freedom of assembly, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, and the right to effective legal remedy. Russia appealed to the Grand Chamber, but the Grand Chamber upheld the ruling.
However, what appeared to be the green light last month turned out to be false — Moscow officials banned Pride citing, as the previous administration had, that they were unable to ensure the safety of participants.
In light of this, the force that was used on Saturday and the severity with which citizens exercising basic freedom of assembly were treated seems disproportionate at best, and at worst an overt attempt to suppress.