Russian authorities forcefully dissolved an unsanctioned gay rights rally in Moscow on Saturday, detaining up to 20 people, both activists and anti-gay protesters, reports Reuters. Activists met at Tverskaya Square where police clad in riot gear had lined the square ahead of the activists arrival, anticipating clashes between protesters and activists.
Peaceful activists received hostile reactions from anti-gay protesters, with many of the protesters charging and openly attacking activists. Police maced and forcefully detained several activists and violent protesters including Dmitry Enteo, leader of Orthodox group God's Will. Leading gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who was thrown into the back of a police van with a bleeding hand, criticized Russian authorities as he was being detained:
"It is lawlessness of Moscow's and Russian authorities – what is happening here is a complete lawlessness. We are just trying to hold a peaceful human rights action."
Witnesses at the event saw protesters and authorities ripping rainbow flags out of the hands of activists. Under Russian law, rainbow flags constitute as "gay propaganda" and are considered illegal.
Last week, Russian authorities detained 17 LGBT activists in Moscow at a flash mob event where they planned to release balloons, calling the act "gay propaganda."