Petersburg Gay Pride Event Banned, Organizers Charged under Anti-Gay Law
By Sergey Chernov, The St. Petersburg Times
On Thursday evening, City Hall banned the Petersburg gay pride rally it had authorized on Tuesday and formally charged organizers with violating the city’s infamous anti-gay law. But organizers said they would go ahead with the rally despite the ban.
Organizers said that City Hall explained to them that it had imposed the ban because local media had reported it as a “gay pride event (parade),” rather than a “march and a stationary rally against the violations of LGBT people’s rights,” as the event was described in the application submitted to City Hall last week.
The organizers were summoned to City Hall on Thursday and informed it was “not possible” to hold the event and that they would be held legally liable if they went ahead with it.
According to St. Petersburg Gay Pride chair Yury Gavrikov, who is also chair of the local LGBT rights organization Ravnopraviye (Equality), after handing them the official rejection notice, the head of City Hall’s law and order committee Leonid Bogdanov told him and another organizer, Sergei Volkov, that a law enforcement official wanted to talk with them.
A police officer then entered the room and charged the two activists with violating the law forbidding “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors,” Gavrikov said.
Gavrikov and Volkov were told that they since they had distributed information about the previously authorized event to the website GayRussia.ru and local newspapers Nevskoye Vremya and Metro, they had “promote[d] the social equality of same-sex relationships and traditional marriage” among minors and thus violated the law.
“It means that first they authorized the event and then charged us with giving information about it to the media,” Gavrikov said late on Thursday, adding that he and Volkov had been detained in City Hall for more than two hours.
He also said that City Hall had insisted that all the eight people who signed the application for the event come to the meeting, but authorities had not specified that its purpose would be to ban the rally and charge them with violating the anti-gay law.
Although they already face substantial fines, St. Petersburg Gay Pride organizers said they would go ahead with the rally, scheduled for Saturday, July 7, despite the ban. They will announce the time and site at a press conference scheduled for noon on Friday.
Two previous gay pride events in St. Petersburg – on Palace Square, in 2010, and on Senate Square near the Bronze Horseman monument, in 2011 – were banned by City Hall on questionable grounds, but activists attempted to hold them anyway, resulting in arrests.
Last year, the event was attacked by a number of young men, some with their faces hidden. They managed to punch at least two LGBT activists before police arrested the activists themselves.
“The authorization was rescinded due to the fact that the format of the application did not correspond to the actual event that the LGBT activists were planning to hold,” St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko’s spokesman Andrei Kibitov told RIA Novosti.
Kibitov added that the ban was also influenced by complaints from the public. “A great number of calls and emails have been received not only from St. Petersburg, but from the other Russian cities as well, asking [us] to cancel the gay parade,” he was quoted as saying.
The “anti-propaganda” law, introduced as a bill by local United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov in November 2011 and signed into law by Governor Poltavchenko this past March, imposes fines of 5,000 rubles ($154) on individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,537) on officials, and 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($7,686–15,373) on organizations that violate the law.
The St. Petersburg Gay Pride march was initially authorized Tuesday to be held in the remote and mostly deserted Polyustrovsky Park at 2 p.m., Saturday, July 7. The site was suggested by City Hall as an alternative after it rejected all the more central routes and sites suggested by organizers.