Moscow gay arrests & violence

Tatchell bashed by Moscow nazis police; right-wing extremists rampage; Moscow Gay Pride leader arrested with German Green MP Volker Beck

May 28, 2006

Richard Fairbrass, also known as pop artist Right Said Fred, suffered a bloody eye during the clash
MOSCOW — Arrests and violent attacks marred Saturday's attempted Moscow Gay Pride march. Fifteen to 20 marchers were arrested. The organizer of Moscow Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, was detained overnight at Moscow's Tverskoi district police station, together with two prominent members of Russia's Radical and Free Radical parties, Nikolai Khramov and Sergei Konstantinov.

British gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was one of several Gay Pride marchers who were beaten today by gangs of neo-Nazis, nationalist extremists and Russian Orthodox fundamentalists, with the apparent collusion of sections of the Moscow police and the Russian OMON riot squad.

"There is no rule of law in Moscow. The right to protest does not exist. This is not a democracy," said Mr. Tatchell

"Today's protest was about much more than gay rights. We were defending the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest for all Russians, gay and straight.

"The ban on Moscow Gay Pride is one aspect of a much wider attack on civil society and human rights. It is evidence of a failed transition from communism to democracy and of a rising trend towards autocracy and authoritarianism," he added.

The arrests and assaults took place in front of and opposite Moscow City Hall, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners assembled to hold Moscow's Gay Pride march.

The first people arrested were Mr. Alekseev and German Green Party Member of Parliament Volker Beck. They were seized as they attempted to deliver a letter to Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, at City Hall.

"After they were driven away in a police bus, marauding gangs of right-wing extremists infiltrated the Gay Pride crowd and began indiscriminately attacking participants. The Moscow police looked on and did nothing," reported Mr. Tatchell.

Soon afterwards, Mr. Tatchell unfurled a placard reading, "Gay Rights," written in both Russian and English. He was set upon and repeatedly bashed by right-wing extremists. Moscow riot police, the OMON, stood by while neo-Nazis punched Mr. Tatchell in the face, dragged him to the ground, and kicked him all over his body.

Clutching a bloody eye, he was arrested by the riot police.

"They arrested me, but let my attackers walk free," said Mr. Tatchell.

"The Moscow police gave right-wing extremists a more or less free hand to attack Gay Pride marchers. Despite many of us being battered left, right and center, the police only arrested a handful of the assailants.

"Instead of protecting us from the violence, some officers seemed to be colluding with the neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists. I saw them freely talking to each other. It has even been suggested that some of the attackers were, in fact, plain clothes police officers," said Mr. Tatchell.

Following his arrest, Mr. Tatchell was violently dragged to a police bus, where he was put in the intimidating situation of being detained with three neo-Nazis, who had been arrested for other assaults.

While in the bus, he was taunted by members of the riot police. They interrogated him as to whether he was gay. When he answered yes, one of the OMON officers said, "Wait until we get you to the police station. Then we will have some fun with you."

Soon afterwards, the police also brought to the bus the arrested Member of the European Parliament Marco Cappato, of the Italian Radical Party; Ottavio Marzocchi, a Radical Party European Parliament administrator; and two Russian transgender activists.

Later Mr. Tatchell was transferred to an ambulance and taken to hospital where he was treated for injuries to his right eye.

"My face is very sore where I was punched. My right eye is badly bruised, swollen and bloodied, but it is expected to heal in a couple of weeks," he said.

He was discharged at approximately 3:30 pm, and then taken to the Tverskoi district police station in Moscow.

Mr. Tatchell filed a complaint with the Moscow police about the assault on him, requesting that officers investigate and arrest the assailants.

"Despite the appalling behavior of the riot squad and Moscow police, the officer investigating my complaint was diligent, fair and professional," said Mr. Tatchell.

At 4:30 pm Mr. Tatchell was allowed to leave the police station on the condition that he report back to the Tverskoi district station at 2 pm on Monday, 28 May. At this stage, it appears Mr. Tatchell is being treated as a witness to the attack on him, rather than as a suspect.

"As I left the police station with several other released Gay Pride marchers, we were pelted with eggs. Some of us were violently attacked by a man dressed as a Russian Orthodox priest and by several neo-Nazis. The Moscow police initially did nothing, and only arrested two of the assailants under pressure from the Gay Pride marchers and journalists, who had photos and film footage of the attack," said Mr. Tatchell.

"Long after the Moscow Gay Pride protest at City Hall was over, groups of far right nationalists and neo-Nazis roamed the streets, calling each other on cell phones, apparently to organize additional attacks on people they suspected of participating in Moscow's Gay Pride," he added.

"Only a handful of far-right extremists were detained. Despite being arrested on charges of assault, most of them were released very quickly´┐Żlong before the gay marchers were allowed to leave the police station," said Mr. Tatchell.

Mr. Tatchell had traveled to Moscow at the request of the Moscow Gay Pride organizers to support the event and the campaign for gay rights in Russia. He was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the Moscow Gay Pride conference on Saturday morning, 26 May 2007 at the Swissotel. s– Issued by Outrage!

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