A gay rights demonstration in Moscow on Saturday to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest finals was broken up by police who arrested between 20 and 40 people.
The L.A. Times reports: "Shortly after noon, about a dozen activists stood on a nearby lawn of thick grass and blossoming lilac bushes and began to shout slogans. 'Homophobia is a shame!' they chanted. The demonstration lasted for about a minute before the police set upon them from all sides, clambering through the shrubs and knocking news cameramen out of the way to seize the demonstrators, pin their arms behind their backs and drag them off into waiting buses and patrol wagons. They knew it would be a struggle. The city government has repeatedly denied their permit requests. Police in the past have stood aside while ultranationalist skinheads beat gay activists bloody -- then arrested the activists, not the skinheads. (Skinheads, unlike gays, have been permitted to march in Moscow.) This year, the government seemed particularly incensed. Eurovision should have been a proud moment for the Russian authorities, a lighthearted celebration badly needed after bitter conflict with Europe over the war in Georgia and natural gas shut-offs."
A second wave of demonstrators arrived shortly after the first group was arrested. They too, were hauled away by police.
Chicago-based activist Andy Thayer reports on the experience of his arrest and offers an update on the situation:
"Around mid-day today, Moscow Time, all of our people were finally released. Holding him and other key activists well past the mandated three hour time limit, the Russian authorities are trying to make an example of Moscow Pride’s foremost organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, by slapping multiple charges on him beyond the traditional “demonstrating without a permit” violation. Even though he is finally released following a hearing this morning, Alekseev’s attorney Dmitri Bartenev told me that the exact nature of the charges against Alekseev aren’t clear, except that since he has been released, he cannot now be sentenced to jail time. Bartenev and the public were barred from this morning’s hearing. Alekseev faces trial on May 26. Despite the violent attack by OMOH cops, the Russian equivalent of SWAT police, fortunately no one was seriously injured. Also, after some initial very worrying reports about threats to deport our Belorussian friends, who might in turn face incarceration by their country’s dictatorial regime, we’re happy to report that they have been released."
Here's CNN's report. And AfterElton wonders if out comedian and Eurovision Song Contest host Graham Norton, should have made more of the arrests than the single statement he made, during the show, without further explanation: "Heavy-handed policing has really marred what has been a fantastic Eurovision."
Seven videos regarding the arrest, including interviews with Peter Tatchell and Andy Thayer, AFTER THE JUMP....
Gay Activists in Moscow Thwarted [la times]
VIDEOS, AFTER THE JUMP...
Police break up the gay rights protest while allowing a counter demonstration to go on as planned:
Raw video from Sky News:
Four videos from Gays Without Borders. In the first Peter Tatchell speaks, in the second, Andy Thayer speaks. The other two are foreign news reports: