Dan Choi | Gay Pride | Moscow

Gay Rights Activists Attacked During Rally In Moscow

Dan Choi was one of the many gay activists attacked by an anti-gay ultra-Orthodox group during a small peaceful gay rights rally in Moscow today. 

The AFP reports:

"'We have come here to prevent this event from happening,' Orthodox group member Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich said as scuffles raged around him. 'God burned down Sodom and Gomorrah and he will burn down Moscow too if we let things like this happen,' he told AFP. Members of the religious group wore black robes and brandished Christian Orthodox cross. An AFP correspondent saw one man rip up a picture of Elton John -- the openly gay icon of the global gay and lesbian community."

"The small group of rights activists were mostly composed of young people who chanted 'Russia without homophobia' and wore shirts with signs such as 'I love her.' Police had cordoned off the area in advance to thwart activists' plans to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."

Reports are 18 gay rights activists and 14 anti-gay demonstraters were arrested. Other than Choi, other gay rights leaders arrested today were Peter Tatchell and Louis-George Tin. Russian activist Nikolai Alexeyev was not present at the demonstration. Choi live-tweeted his arrest and revealed on the site that detained foreigners have been released from jail. He's asking for a translation of the charges against him.

Watch mobile phone video of Choi talking about his arrest while he is in the back of a paddy wagon, AFTER THE JUMP.

UK Gay News has a rundown of events from the parade.

Gay Russia has a slideshow of photos from the rally. A slide show of images also accompany this article from the AP.

Watch a few dramatic videos of the rally, AFTER THE JUMP.

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  1. can we get some info on the translations pls?

    Posted by: Alex Paris | May 28, 2011 3:33:03 PM

  2. A very, very real look into the reality of what it's like to be gay in a country that is really and truly institutionally anti-gay from head to toe. Very scary, very sad.

    Posted by: Francis | May 28, 2011 3:33:31 PM

  3. When Russian police shut these protests down, I wonder how much of it is really because of homophobia, or if the reason is just because the gay activists are protesting about something. The logic of the Russian state goes: we'll let you be gay, but don't you dare challenge us or you'll go to jail like everyone else.

    The Soviet Union decriminalized sodomy in the 1920s, and was a much more tolerant place than the West until the 1980s-1990s. But you couldn't open a gay bar, or wear different clothes than everyone else, or ever stage a protest. Not because the state was homophobic, necessarily, but because any protest of any kind was seen as a threat.

    Posted by: Xtab | May 28, 2011 3:46:21 PM

  4. Good point, Xtab. Which is why I say that some things that work in the West-protests and marches for example-may NOT work in Russia, since Russians look down on what they see as "westerners" or "hooligans". They really do NOT like Western culture at all. I'm not discounting the bravery of the protesters, I'm just wondering if their tactics will actually WORK, especially with people who value order, like the Russians seem to.

    Posted by: Doc Marten | May 28, 2011 4:18:03 PM

  5. Surprise! Eastern Europeans are homophobic thugs.

    Posted by: Max | May 28, 2011 4:35:30 PM

  6. @ xtab: Balderdash! It is a total myth that "the Soviet Union was a much more tolerant place than the West until the 1980s-1990s." How would opening a "gay bar" be seen as "protest" but NOT have been homophobic when gay bars existed all across the, per you, "less tolerant" West despite its homophobia. The government's collaboration with local neonazis and the Russian Orthodox church who always show up is hardly just about "protest" not also "homophobia" when both groups say things and display signs that are explicitly, rabidly homohating.

    From British gay leader Peter Tatchell who was there: "“We witnessed a high level of fraternisation and collusion between neo-Nazis and the Moscow police. I saw neo-Nazis leave and re-enter police buses parked on Tverskaya Street by City Hall.Our suspicion is that many of the neo-Nazis were actually plainclothes police officers, who did to us what their uniformed colleagues dared not do in front of the world’s media. Either that, or the police were actively facilitating the right-wing extremists with transport to the protest.” - UK Gay News.

    @ Doc Marten: This demonstration, like the similar ones in previous years, WERE ORGANIZED BY NATIVE RUSSIANS who should know does and does not have a potential for working. 15 of the 18 people arrested were Russian. They simply invited, again, Westerners for the benefit of international pressure. Blacks, women, Latinos, and Asians in this country were told their first years of protests would never work either.

    For those interested in genuinely trying to help generate OFFICIAL pressure, here's a link to sign a letter Dan Choi plans to deliver to the State Department after his return. It's great that countries like Uganda have been called out, but suppression of LGBT equaliity and simple freedom of expression among the Super Powers must not be ignored for whatever geopolitical reasons. Thank you.


    Posted by: Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | May 28, 2011 4:56:22 PM

  7. Video # 3 should be removed. It's from 2009, not this year!!!

    Posted by: KevinVT | May 28, 2011 5:00:29 PM

  8. "Not because the state was homophobic, necessarily, but because any protest of any kind was seen as a threat."

    The state doesn't mind religious protests, or police-supported anti-gay thugs protesting violently against peaceful gay demonstrators, but they certainly don't like gay protests. The Russian state is currently virulently homophobic, encouraging and encouraged by the rise of ultra-Orthodoxy, neo-Nazi thinking, nationalism, and faux sexologists who make ludicrous claims like, pedophilia is an acceptable sexual orientation in Canada . . .

    It is legitimate to question whether professional Western activists are helping the cause, particularly since they've aligned themselves with Alexeyev, an extremely divisive figure even among gay Russians, and since the anti-gay forces like to claim homosexuality is a "Western import," but it's easier to criticize from afar than to be out there demanding civil rights, so those of us on the sidelines can't much fault any protesters, Russian or Western.

    As for Eastern Europeans being homophobic thugs--well, yes, but there are also plenty of Eastern Europeans who are no such thing (many have welcomed my boyfriend and me into their homes) and there are plenty of gay EE's, so such simplistic blanket generalizations serve no useful purpose.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 28, 2011 5:03:43 PM

  9. @MAX Essentialist garbage. I'd say ultra-orthodox fanatics with fascist leanings, are (in fact) thugs.

    @DOC I think that might be the case. There actually were gays in the West who fled to the communist states to escape persecution after World War 2. The communist states (with some exceptions like Cuba and North Korea) didn't openly persecute gays or put them in prison. Problem is the communist states didn't tolerate any societies or counter-cultures outside the communist party. So you could be a homosexual but you couldn't be "gay" -- if that makes any sense. And it's not because being "gay" itself is bad, necessarily. It's just that your loyalties don't come to the party first.

    This has been inherited by the modern Russian state. Look, the problem isn't that you're gay, the Russian cop says, but that by organizing politically (it doesn't matter how or in what form) you pose a threat to the social order and have to be stopped. And then you get hit with the baton over the head.

    Posted by: Xtab | May 28, 2011 5:04:02 PM

  10. @xtab: The Soviet Union was NEVER a very tolerant place for gays, even in the 1920s. That's an old leftist canard. There was no law, but it was much less tolerant in the 20s than in 1905 under the Tsar.

    Unfortunately the tactics of Alekseev allow Russians to portray homosexuality as a Western import. There are grassroots activists who do not rely on Western participation and Western press. Alekseev is all about Western press.

    Posted by: KevinVT | May 28, 2011 5:04:13 PM

  11. The Russian Orthodox Church is as powerful and manipulative as the Roman Catholic Church. I'm sure it also has its share of illegal activities and cover-ups. Someone should expose them.

    Posted by: Ezam | May 28, 2011 5:06:06 PM

  12. PS: I'm not certain what event it covers but the last video, from AP, is NOT from today's confrontation. It was uploaded to YouTube two weeks ago, but does document the "Christian"-motivated homohatred [and self-denial just like the American Taliban] in play there I noted in my previous post.

    The video of Dan's arrest at the link below [he's in the white shirt on the left with his back to the camera] is the most vivid I've seen. He later texted that both the neonazis and the police hit him but the police more when he tried to shout "Glasnost" and something in English about freedom of expression [and, yes, the concept of Glanost included that].


    Posted by: Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | May 28, 2011 5:06:27 PM

  13. XTAB dear, don't blather on about things you know nothing about. The Soviet Union criminalized homosexuality in 1933 and roughly 1000 people per year were put in prison for 3 years every year up until the late 1980s. 1933: that's before WWII. Anyone "escaping" to the USSR because he was gay would have been crazy.

    Posted by: KevinVT | May 28, 2011 5:09:30 PM

  14. The way I see the Russian state's relationship with the Nazis is that they don't like them, but use them to put down other protests they don't like. Think Mubarak's plainclothed thugs in Tahrir Square. "We don't like you, but we don't like those other guys either, so if you beat them up that's fine with us."

    Posted by: Xtab | May 28, 2011 5:10:03 PM

  15. @Alex: what exactly do you want translated? The guy in the first vid is screaming (and many clericofascists later do) "Sodom will not pass!" The two girls arrested are a couple, one is a journalist now in hospital with a concussion. The young guy toward the end says "I'm sorry for them, they're sick people, don't beat them too much. They have no future. THey'll die out because they can't procreate.

    The woman in the scarf says, "These homos have come from all over the world. They're trampling on our country that my forefathers defended." (see what I mean about the danger of inviting Westerners?) The sign that the girls had been holding that somebody crumples says "love is always love."

    Posted by: KevinVT | May 28, 2011 5:19:34 PM

  16. @ xtab: just because you keep rephrasing your idiocy doesn't erase the observable facts. "by organizing politically (it doesn't matter how or in what form) you pose a threat to the social order and have to be stopped."

    The governement DOES allow ANTIgay protests by the church and the neonazis. If you can't pull your head out of your ass, at least stop spreading the smell here.

    Posted by: Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | May 28, 2011 5:36:52 PM

  17. I have to question the value and efficacy of having a bunch of Westerners go to Moscow to peacefully march on the assumption that not enough locals know how to do it. Anyone knows how to march, and if not enough are willing to do it, I don't see the value added of having Westerners expand their numbers.

    The one thing few can object to in these posts is that many Russians (perhaps must, and certainly among the police and politicians) deeply resent Westerners and the implication that they're telling Russia what to do because it's "backward." When I've talked to gays in Eastern Europe (or Turkey, Egypt, or parts of India, or remote parts of Mexico) there's sometimes a palpable fear that efforts to identify themselves as gay and fight for their rights will generate dangerous backlash because their cultures (and politics, and religion, and concepts of human rights) are so different from our own. Indeed, there's often a feeling of, We wish you Westerners would stick to things that matter to you in your countries, because you don't understand ours---and we manage to get along fine as long as we don't make a fuss.

    No, it's not the preferred approach, and I can't imagine living like that. But a gay identity isn't even recognized by people in many countries (even among men sleeping with men). And there's a valid fear that if they do push too far, they'll end up getting responses like that in Uganda. In a very sad way, silence = life in such countries, especially when religion (orthodox, Muslim, or otherwise) is tightly linked to government, economies are mismanaged, and education systems are weak and/or corrupted.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 28, 2011 7:17:06 PM

  18. Paddy wagon?

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 28, 2011 8:45:05 PM

  19. @ Doc Marten: This demonstration, like the similar ones in previous years, WERE ORGANIZED BY NATIVE RUSSIANS who should know does and does not have a potential for working.
    Well, obviously not if you're banging your head against a brick wall, like the LGBT community is in Moscow. I personally think it's legitimate to ask if these confrontational tactics are actually WORKING. From what I see, they are not. Just HOW many times has Alexeev tried to get a permit for Moscow Pride? Six times? And how many times has that permit been granted? None.
    Meanwhile, the LGBT community in St. Petersburg are using other means to educate the people there about the LGBT community. And the St. Petersburg authorities let them have their activities with no problem. Is it St. Petersburg being a more liberal place than Moscow or is it that the LGBT community in St. Petersburg are moving slower towards having that Pride parade than the community in Moscow?

    15 of the 18 people arrested were Russian. They simply invited, again, Westerners for the benefit of international pressure.

    Honey, once again listen to yourself. Yeah, they're inviting Westerners for international pressure. Is that working? Obviously not-usually, Russia isn't one to spit in the face of the European Court of Human Rights. And yet, that's exactly what they are doing. AND, honestly-does it REALLY make the LGBT community in Moscow look better when there's Westerners around? Remember, Russians don't like the West very much. They like Western money, but they hate Western culture. They don't see LGBT Russians as real Russians-they see the LGBT community as "agents of Western corruption" as one Orthodox priest put it.It's my opinion that spending MORE time getting Russian people used to the idea that some of them are gay/lesbian/bisexual or transgender is a better idea than screaming in Red Square for a pride parade.
    Now, this is just MY opinion, so you can take it or leave it, but it seems like every year that permit is applied for and every year it's refused. And then, every year there's a riot. Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It's doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. There is nothing wrong with protest-there's just a better way to go about it.

    Posted by: Doc Marten | May 28, 2011 9:45:05 PM

  20. @ Paul R: I'm going to type this slowly so perhaps you'll understand—the "Westerners" didn't just jump on a plane, land in Moscow, and say, "Listen up, Bitches—we're going to tell you how to do things." They were each personally invited there by local RUSSIAN activists to participate EXACTLY the way THE RUSSIAN GAYS thought they should.

    @ Doc Marten: "Every year"? Uh, that would be SIX years, acutally. Some NINETY YEARS LESS than it took American blacks to overturn Jim Crow laws. Again, replace "Russian" in everything you've said with "anti-Stalinists" or "anti-Mubarak Egyptians" or "anti Gadafi Libyans" or, in addition to "blacks," "women, Asians, Latinos" throughout our own history...and there was always, ALWAYS someone like you at the time, saying, "You don't represent the majority of your people" or "you're upsetting the ruling majority" or "you're moving too fast...the wrong way...blah blah blah." Have someone read to you Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, now classic "Letter from Birmingham jail."

    Do you know what the definition of "cowardice" and/or "lack of imagination" is? Look in the mirror.

    Posted by: Michael@LeonardMatlovich.com | May 28, 2011 10:19:16 PM

  21. Homophobic to the core. It's absolutely despicable.

    Posted by: Mel Smith | May 29, 2011 12:10:51 AM

  22. @Michael: Thanks for typing slowing, I really appreciate that. But I wish you'd explained how the presence of Westerners did a damn bit to improve things, just as in past years. Many of the Russians are (understandably) too scared to show their faces, while Dan Choi can't read the charges against him.

    Maybe in some cases us Westerners shouldn't presume to know what's right and what works, even if we do get invites from RUSSIAN GAYS. Do you think even 1 in 1,000 Americans knows who Dan Choi is? So do you think 1 in 100,000 Russians knows or cares who he is? Really, what's the point?

    Russia is among the world's most xenophobic, anti-Western countries. A gay Asian-American who got kicked out of the military doesn't mean a damn thing to 99.9% of its population. Nor does a British gay rights activist. Moscow's activists simply cannot count on success by replicating strategies from the West.

    Why don't you go over there and show them how it's done? You clearly have no idea, but I'm sure it would help your standing in your moral kiosk.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 29, 2011 12:51:19 AM

  23. I think someone in the earlier post about Choi attending the protest called him an attention whore?

    I guess for those readers, if you're highlighting government hypocrisy and prejudice through grassroots tactics despite the threat to your own safety instead of wearing hoof-heels, bubble dresses, and making millions of dollars while vlogging about "honoring your vomit", you're just an attention whore.

    Thank God for Dan Choi. A vet and a devastatingly honest voice.

    Posted by: luminum | May 29, 2011 1:58:13 AM

  24. I admire Dan Choi more all the time. Great that we have someone ready to create an international movement.

    Posted by: mike128 | May 29, 2011 1:09:37 PM

  25. Agreed on Dan's position as an international figure. Kudos also to Adam Lambert for speaking up.

    Posted by: mark | May 29, 2011 8:18:26 PM

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