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Moscow flouts Euro Court ruling, arrests 32 at Moscow Pride
by Rex Wockner
2011-06-01

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Undeterred by the April ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that banning Moscow Pride is illegal in multiple ways, the city banned the May 28 gay pride parade for the sixth year in a row. Activists responded by trying to rally near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and City Hall. They were violently arrested.

Among those taken into custody were U.S. activist Dan Choi, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) President Louis-Georges Tin, Chicago activist Andy Thayer and 15 Russian LGBT activists, including, according to Choi, Anna Komarova, Tim Magomedov, Alexey Kiselev, Elizaveta Nikitina, Aleksandr Shiriaev and Andzey Zayziev. Fourteen anti-gay protesters also were arrested.

"I was arrested and put in a solitary confinement without any air, without any light," said Tin. "The policemen were calling me 'fucking faggot.' After four hours ... I was released. My concern now is about European institutions. The right to vote of Russia within the Council of Europe has to be suspended."

Choi live-tweeted his arrest from the moment he was placed into a police wagon until his release several hours later.

Once out of custody, he wrote: "Released. No charge, no fine. ... Few bruises on left leg, scratches and swelling right ear. Punched in the face 5 times. Still alive. Overall best pride march yet. (U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton still needs to say something about the Russian ban on this freedom of expression. We were absolutely non-violent. My twitter feed (twitter.com/ltdanchoi&; has some pics from the jail, and other details from the event. Love is worth it."

Komarova said police pressured her to divulge information about the structure of Moscow Pride, according to British gay leader Peter Tatchell, who was in Moscow but was not detained.

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, denounced Moscow's refusal to abide by the Euro Court decision.

"I learnt that a LGBT Pride event planned for Saturday 28 May in Moscow has not been authorised by the authorities because of expected traffic obstructions and the impact of this event on the 'psychological health and moral damage of children and teenagers,'" Hammarberg wrote. "(T)he rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights in a democratic society and they belong to all people. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in two judgments against unlawful restrictions or bans running counter to the exercise of freedom of assembly by LGBT persons in the context of the organisation of Pride parades. Peaceful demonstrations cannot be banned simply because of hostile attitudes to the demonstrators or to the causes they advocate. The State also has a duty to protect the participants in peaceful demonstrations including when they hold unpopular views or belong to minorities."

IDAHO's Tin said the Council of Europe must react to Russia's flouting of European law and the Euro Court ruling.

"This situation is intolerable, and cannot last anymore," he said. "The Council of Europe, which was created to promote human rights, cannot include (in its membership) without any reaction a member state that denies human rights so clearly."

There is video of Choi and Thayer being arrested at tinyurl.com/danchoimoscow. Choi posted a video from inside the police wagon. See tinyurl.com/choiwagon.

In ruling against the Moscow government's violent homophobia, the European Court of Human Rights said that previous years' gay-pride bans by then-Mayor Yuri Luzhkov violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.

Gays have marched or staged other public actions yearly since 2006 despite the bans. The gatherings were attacked by anti-gay hooligans, picketed by religious protesters and broken up by police.

Meanwhile, five days before this year's pride drama, about 60 LGBT and other people staged an Equality March on Gogolevsky Boulevard in central Moscow.

That march had been banned as well. Officials said it would provoke a negative reaction in society and could affect the psychological health of children and teens.

Other groups taking part in the Equality March included feminists, socialists, anarchists, leftists and liberals, a spokesman for the group said. There is video at tinyurl.com/mos-em-a.

—Assistance: Bill Kelley


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