LGBT Pride in Petersburg: Thirty Activists Detained

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Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
August 4, 2018

A LGBT pride event was scheduled today, but the authorities refused to permit it, and it was decided we should limit ourselves to solo pickets on Palace Square. The protest was scheduled for 12:34 p.m. It looks pretty (1,2,3,4), but the time is horribly early for me.

But I remembered the words of Alexei Sergeyev and forced myself to get up.

“I hope solidarity is not an empty phrase for you. Maybe we have been together at architectural preservation marches and the Marches for Peace. Or we came out to support the striking truckers and women’s reproductive rights, protested against the destruction of confiscated produce, against corruption, against torture by the FSB, and mourned the murdered Boris Nemtsov. Maybe this is your first picket holding a flag or card. Or you are coming just to support us, to be with us. All of it matters. Every person counts.”

Alexei and I wound up on the same bus. We were running a bit late.

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On Palace Square, we saw crowds of patriotically minded Petersburgers. Many had dressed in camouflage and adorned themselves with St. George’s Ribbons. It transpirted that today was a party for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their owners.

Palace Square was completely cordoned off and chockablock with cops.

I got held up, and when I got to the square, Alexei Sergeyev had already been detained. Then Alek Naza (Alexei Nazarov) was detained: he had no placard, only a rainbow flag. Before that 28 more people had been detained. That is a total of 30 people detained for trying to hold solo pickets [which, according to Russian law, can be held without permission and without notifying authorities in advance]. There are minors among them. Some have been taken to the 74th Police Precinct (in particular, Alexander Khmelyov), while a third group is still being held in a paddy wagon, as far as I know.

Information from witnesses: “Six of the people detained on Palace Square were dropped off at the 69th Police Precinct at 30/3 Marshal Zhukov Avenue, including Yuri Gavrikov, Alexei Sergeyev, and Tanya (Era) Sichkaryova. One of the detainees is an underaged girl. We have refused to be fingerprinted and photographed.”

I was taking pictures with Yelena Grigorieva’s camera. I don’t have those photos yet. I’m using ones that have already been published on group pages and the social media pages of the protesters.

Translated by the Russian Reader

UPDATE. Please do not credit the accounts of this incident published by Gay Star News, Gay Tourism, and True Media. I sent the following letter to them a few minutes ago.

Your websites published a very sketchy summary of a post I published on my blog The Russian Reader earlier this evening.

Namely, you characterized the source of my post, Yevgenia Litvinova, as a “LGBTI activist.” She is no such thing. She is a well-known opposition journalist and pro-democracy (anti-Putin) activist, whose organization, Democratic Russia, feels it important to show solidarity with the LGBTI movement in Petersburg. 

Please correct or delete this baseless speculation on your part or I’ll expose your bad journalistic practices on social media and my blog.

My blog is a copyleft website, but no one has the right to rip what I translate and write out of context—a context I know well because I’ve lived in Petersburg for 25 years—and fit it into a fake context that makes more sense to your readers, who, apparently, cannot imagine a non-LGBTI person would or could show solidarity with the LGBTI movement.

Paratroopers Day: LGBT Protest on Palace Square in Petersburg

LGBT Activists Protest on Palace Square on Paratroopers Day
David Frenkel
Special to The Russian Reader
August 5, 2015

Local LGBT activists bearing flags and posters took to Saint Petersburg’s Palace Square on Sunday, August 2, Russian Paratroopers Day, to defend their rights.

In August 2013 and 2014, young local LGBT activist Kirill Kalugin held solo protests on Palace Square on Paratroopers Day, but he left Russia in late November 2014, applying for political asylum in Germany.

This year, LGBT activists tried to get permission for an event but were turned down three times by city officials.

Yuri Gavrikov, leader of the local LGBT organization Ravnopravie (“Equal Rights”) thus decided to go to Palace Square alone with an LGBT flag. He was arrested in the morning, however, for “swearing in public” as he was riding his bicycle toward the city center.

Nevertheless, several of his comrades came to Palace Square sporting flags and posters, and demanding Gavrikov’s release.

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The first to take to the square was activist Olga Panova. She unfurled the LGBT rainbow flag before being arrested by the police a few minutes later.

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Panova managed to pass the flag to another activist, Valery Ugarov, who was immediately arrested as well.

Policemen claimed the arrests had been made at the “behest of citizens,” although at the time, around two o’clock in the afternoon, only a few paratroopers were still left on Palace Square celebrating their holiday. They paid no attention to the LGBT activists.

Journalists from state media outlets approached the paratroopers and asked them their opinion of the protest, making no secret of their own disgust and dubbing the activists “drunk.” The paratroopers, however, merely dubbed the protest a “provocation” and avoided engaging in any violence towards the activists.

The next activist to take to the square with the flag was Mikhail Gerasimov from the Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equal Rights. Police also detained him.

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Police initially charged all the detained activists with “promoting homosexuality among minors,” but later dropped the charges for lack of evidence, claiming that a child who had been strolling through the square with his mother had taken no interest in the flag’s “meaning.”

Police released all the activists later in the day.

As Gerasimov was being arrested, activists Alexei Nazarov and Alexei Sergeyev emerged from the crowd holding posters that read, respectively, “Free Yuri Gavrikov,” “Three ‘rejections’ from the Smolny [Petersburg city hall]: lawlessness and discrimination of Russian citizens,” and “‘Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.’ Charlie Chaplin.” (The last is a quotation from the Jewish Barber’s speech in Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator.)

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A few men wearing the trademark baby-blue berets and navy blue-and-white striped sleeveless t-shirts of the Russian paratroopers and casual clothing suddenly rushed Nazarov and Sergeyev, grabbing their posters and ripping them up.

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The LGBT activists kept producing new posters, and the would-be paratroopers ultimately tore up five posters.

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Police ignored the assaults on the activists, even laughing as they tried to defend themselves.

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No one from either party to the scuffle was arrested.

All photos by and courtesy of David Frenkel