Police Rough Up, Arrest Pride Marchers in Former Soviet Republic
Pride demonstrators in Minsk engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with police and anti-gay protestors over the weekend. Bloggers reporting on the impromptu Pride marches that took place in the city, which is located in the former Soviet nation of Belarus.
Though sexual activity between consenting adults of the same gender is not a criminal offense in Belarus, there are not legal protections for same-sex families there. Also, Pride marchers face social bias: according to a blog that appeared at UK Gay News, authorities in Minsk tried to ban the march, saying that it would pass too close to thorough fares such as pedestrian crossings and subway stations. The authorities sought the cancellation of other Pride events, as well, at the last minute, but canceling the events was not seen as practical.
Pride marchers had to revise their plans on the spot, the blog said, in order to evade the police; also, groups of anti-gay protesters were looking for Pride participants, the blog said, in order to beat them.
One blogger posted video of the Pride march that showed a group of about 40 Pride marchers carrying large rainbow flags along city sidewalks, pausing on occasion to make speeches as the media took photographs and recorded the speeches. Upon the arrival of riot police, some of the marchers broke and ran; the police apprehended a reported total of 12 Pride participants, and snatched their flags. In the video, police can be seen picking up a large rainbow flag and running with it back to their van. The police then bundle the flag out of sight and force a marcher into the van.
The video goes on to show the subsequent arrival of more police in a bus. More marchers are arrested, and the bus begins to depart; suddenly, the bus brakes, and police charge out to apprehend a man on the sidewalk. Police then pick the man up and carry him to the bus, where he is forced on board.
The blog said that those who were placed under arrest were initially told that they might be allowed to leave because of a gasoline shortage that would have meant police would have been unable to transport the prisoners to a detention facility until their Monday court appearance. However, the police later found a supply of gasoline, and the arrested Pride marchers remained in custody. The blog also said that some of the Pride marchers were "violently beaten." Russian GLBT equality advocate Nikolai Alekseev called the police who responded "brutal and violent," and said, "I never saw anything of the kind" at a Pride march before. Alekseev, a lawyer and human rights activist, has organized Moscow Pride for the last five years, despite the mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, refusing year after year to give permission for the event.
Approved Pride evens went forward without disruption, the blog reported, though the festivities were dampened by the fact that some Pride participants remained in police custody. Food was taken to the jail to provide for the Pride marchers who had been arrested, since the State does not feed people in jail. Two Russians were among those arrested. The blog said they were organizers of St. Petersburg Pride. The Russian consul said that they would not be receiving any diplomatic assistance. Belarus GLBT equality activist Sergei Androsenko, of the Belarusian Initiative for Sexual and Gender Equality, was initially reported to have been among several organizers placed under arrest at a cafe after the Pride march, but a later blog posting said this report had been in error.
A May 15 posting at the blog for filmmaker Logan Mucha also offered a detailed run-down of events around the demonstration and police response. Mucha reported that there were several repetitions of activists speaking with the media, only for a fresh wave of police to arrive and place them under arrest. The media was not harassed by the police or prevented from reporting on the event, however.
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