Despite breaking Russia’s Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, Moscow’s Mayor, Yury Luzkov, has for the last 5 years banned any form of gay prides. However, a small community of LGBT activists lead by Nikolai Alekseev have held illegal Prides since 2006. They have been met with violent protests from right-wing extremists and police brutality. Nikolai has lead the movement both in the streets and in the courtrooms. Here waiting on a court appearance Nikolai Alekseev, and Alexey Golitsin wait outside a courtroom while the lawyer for the prefecture contemplates life.
With a degree in law, Nikolai has argued for LGBT Rights over and over in Russia’s courts. The defense gives absurd reasons why there can be no Pride in Moscow. Even the judge was laughing at the city’s lawyers, who argued that there was no place in Moscow to hold such an event due to a Putin rally being held the same day. Unfortunately, the appearance is only a formality, as the verdict had already been handed down by higher powers. However, the European Union is scheduled to rule on the case next year, and everyone is positive they will find the ban a violation of the EU’s Human Rights Convention. Which calls on member countries to allow and protect the protests of minority groups.
Nikolai’s work will reach much further than the LGBT community. The rights they win will affect every minority group in Russia. To date, only Gay Russia has taken the initiative to take the violations to the EU courts.
Despite years of violent protests by both skinhead groups and police, this year’s Pride avoided any beatings or arrests. A bit less intimidating, this woman asked my friend Vlad what was going on in the courthouse. She admitted to being against homosexuality and tried to lecture him on morality. He spent the next 40 minutes talking to her about his life.
Having met Nikolai in Minsk, he granted me the incredible opportunity to spend almost every waking moment with him during my stay in Moscow. In this photo, an A-Team of LGBT activists made up of Peter Tatchell, Andy Harley, Andy Thayer, and WWP’s Sarah Baxter work from the make-shift press office in a rented Moscow flat.
The press conference held at The Holiday Inn was a huge success. This year’s Pride received an incredible amount of positive attention from the major news sources in Russia, and the big international news agencies.
Nikolai works from several phones, and all of them are constantly ringing.
Maria Yefremenkova, who runs Gay Russia in St. Petersburg, has a quiet moment just before we leave for the Pride.
LGBT activist, Anna Komarova prepares her protest sign in the living room of the rented flat. Above, another young protester grabs some much needed sleep under a sign that reads “Rights to Gays.”
Participants including French LGBT activist Louis-Georges Tin, (second from bottom), make their way to the Pride. Louis-George is the driving force behind the International Day Against Homophobia and IDAHO Foundation.
In defiance of the city’s ban, a 20 meter Rainbow Flag was taken out and marched for 600 meters down a main city street while anti-homophobic slogans were chanted by the 30-40 participants.
Despite being physically beaten by skinheads in earlier Moscow Prides, U.K. based activist Peter Tatchell makes a statement to the media during the march. Peter would be arrested the next day in Red Square for making a solo protest.
Volker Beck, a German member of the EU Parliament, is the only politician who has supported Moscow Pride since day one. He has a long and distinguished career working for Human Rights. In 2006, Volker was badly beaten by a right-wing extremist protester. The man responsible is known and has even gloated to media about his actions. The Russian government has yet to take any actions against the extremist.
Then just as quickly as it started, the flag was rolled up and everyone bolted in different directions. I followed a group of friends to a small bus and we were driven away to safety.
The flag is rolled up and put away for safekeeping. Lots of cheers, lots of laughs, lots of hugs.
Exhausted, many of the participants headed back to safe houses, celebrated, and then went to sleep.
Later that night everyone met up for a celebration. For the first time in history, Moscow Pride happened without any violence or arrests. Sitting on the floor is Russian cameraman Vladimir Ivanov, who has documented Gay Russia since the beginning.
When you go through something like this you get close to the people around you very quickly. They are an incredible group of people fighting the good fight.