Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gas attack in Moscow

A group of 20 neo-Nazi thugs burst into the conference venue hosting an international gay conference in Moscow spraying an “unidentified” gas at the assembled delegates, according to this morning’s Times.

The violence follows a similar attack on a Moscow gay club a fortnight ago where elderly religious ‘protestors’ chanted antigay incantations while a small army of skinheads hurled bottles and attacked patrons.

Veteran US jouralist Doug Ireland is providing on-going coverage on his blog of the stand-off between the Mayor of Moscow, assorted religious leaders (who have issued death threats), right-wing skinheads and Russia’s embattled gay community.

Russian gays are hosting an international conference and staging the first Russian Pride today, defying banning orders and threats of violence. 1000 police officers have been dispatched by the Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, to stop the march.

British campaigners Derek Lennard of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (who is the UK co-ordinator for the International Day Against Homophobia) and OutRage! activist Peter Tatchell are in Moscow to attend the conference and join the march.

Also in Moscow is Oscar Wilde’s grandson, and Human Rights Watch director Scott Long. Scott is publishing a diary as events unfold.

GHQ Magazine, (just out) has a cover story on Russian Pride. An electronic (PDF) version is available here.

Nevertheless, Russia’s gay community is divided. Some fear that the backlash will not be worth it, while other believe that a stand must be taken. This is not a new debate, nor a debate specific to oppressed gay communities. It is always the first debate that any civil rights movement has. The same debate was had by religious minorities over the centuries, by the women’s suffrage movement, by the black civil rights movement in the US and by those who stood up to Apartheid.

What is too often painfully clear is that there is rarely progress without blood in the streets.

Scott Long says in his diary that the foreigners left the room to allow the Russians to debate the next step. They voted to march!

I don’t have prayers, but today my thoughts will be with my comrades in Moscow.

Over 50 activists have been detained by Russian police, including march organiser Nikolay Alexeyev.

I've just heard from Derek Lennard in Moscow and he's safe. He's waiting to hear from French activist Louis-Georges Tin and Peter Tatchell, who were part of a different delegation going to City Hall. Derek confirms that Nikolay Alexeyev has been arrested. He adds that at least the tomatoes he had thrown at him seemed fresh organic and thankfully "good enough to eat". It seems Russian neo-Nazis haven't forgotten their manners altogether.

A German MP, Volker Beck, and a French Green Party official have been injured in clashes with police and neo-nazi thugs. Apparently, a delegate from the Paris Mayor's office was one of the gay activists arrested today.


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