Polish Gays Spearhead Euro Demos at Russian Embassies

Of all the demonstrations in support of Moscow Pride to be held on Thursday March 2 outside Russian embassies in Europe, perhaps the most poignant will be in Warsaw.

The protests are being co-ordinated by International Day Against Homophobia and come as a result of the homophobic outbursts of the Mayor of Moscow, Youri Luzhkov, who has on several occasions said a firm „нет” („no”) on plans for the first-ever Gay Pride in the Russian capital.

Gay men and women in Warsaw just happen to know a thing or two about a homophobic mayor who tries to bans Prides.

For the past two summers, the then Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, who is now the country’s President, has tried to put a stop to the city’s Pride/Tolerance March. He failed, the marches went ahead and, in 2004, there were virtually riots as the march with 1,500 participants was attacked by counter-demonstrators of the radical right-wing youth organisation (Mlodziez Wszechpolska).

Last year, the march also went ahead, despite another ban by the mayor. This time there were 2,500 participants who ignored the ban. Significantly, the police were far more interested in the counter-demonstrators from the far „right”.

Last year also saw increased support from other European countries, especially Germany. Among those marching last year was Claudia Roth and other members of the German Green Party. Even the then Polish deputy prime minister, Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, joined the march for a short time.

Gay activists in Poland know just how important it is to have support from other countries. And this, they say, is why a protest outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw is important to them.

„For us, the demonstration is very important,” commented one activist in Warsaw. “Last year in Warsaw we defeated the homophobes. It was our success – and we remember just how much the international gay community helped us.

„Now it is time to pay our bills – we just cannot sit back and do nothing when our friends in Russia have the same problem we had.

„The border of European Union cannot be the border of tolerance. We will never agree with this point of view,” he insisted.

The demonstration on March 2 is scheduled for 6pm outside the Russian Embassy (ul. Belwederska) when a petition will be handed a senior embassy official (Russia currently has no ambassador to Poland).

Ironically, the Russian Embassy is opposite the office of President Kaczynski ­– protest organisers say there will be some slogans which will be directed across the street.

It is hoped that Viatscheslau Bortnik, a gay activist from Amnesty International in Belarus will be among the protestors, along with a contingent of feminists who has traditionally supported the LGBT community in Poland.

At the same time as the protest in Warsaw (6pm), Paris is staging a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Lannes Boulevard.

Earlier, at 12 noon, protestors will be outside the Russian Embassy in London (13 Kensington Palace Gardens, W8)

„The first Pride in Moscow is of enormous and enormous importance particularly to the LGBT communities in the Baltic and Eastern European Countries,” commented Derek Lennard, the UK co-ordinator of IDAHO.

„All those who are able to take the freedom to organise Pride for granted will surely want show their support for the LGBT community in Moscow.”

It is hoped that protests will also be mounted in Brussels and Stokholm.

Russian LGBT groups have called on their counterparts in other capital cities to demonstrate outside Russian embassies to make sure the issue gets the attention of the Russian media and to show their support for Russia's struggling gay community.

In addition to Mayor Luzhkov announcing that the city government will not allow a gay parade „in any form” and any attempt to hold a gay event will be „resolutely quashed”, Russian religious leaders have issued statements condemning the Pride.

Chief Mufti of Russia's Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims, Talgat Tajuddin said: „Muslims' protests can be even worse than these notorious rallies abroad over the scandalous cartoons.

„The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed,” he added.

Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said that if a gay pride was allowed to go ahead it „would be a blow for morality”. He said the Jewish community would not stand by silently, adding that „sexual perversions” did not have a right to exist.

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, who has lobbied the mayor to ban the parade, also spoke out against Moscow Pride, telling various media outlets that homosexuality is a „sin which destroys human beings and condemns them to a spiritual death.”

Already, gay activists and politician from a number of counties – including Belgium, Brazil, France, the Netherlands and United Kingdom – have indicated that they will be attending Moscow Pride. A number of elected members of the European Parliament have also said they intend to be there.

Moscow Pride is scheduled to be held between May 24 and 28, with the parade on May 27.


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