It was to be expected. After Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov refused to grant a permit for a gay pride parade, organizers insisted they would go on without it. And they did just that, smack in the middle of the press spectacle that is the Eurovision Song contest. Among those arrested: Gay Liberation Network co-founder Andy Thayer and British activist Peter Tatchell, who was released a short time thereafter. AP:
Riot police broke up several gay rights demonstrations in Moscow on Saturday, hauling away scores of protesters hours before the capital hosted a major international pop music competition.
No injuries were reported, but the detentions could damage Russia’s desire to be seen as a modern nation as it holds the finals of the Eurovision song contest, a cultural event televised around the world.
[...] Moscow police spokesman Anatoly Listovetsky said 40 people were detained, but media reports said up to 80 had been seized. None of the protests in central Moscow took place near the capital’s Olimpiysky Sports Complex, where the Eurovision concert being held live Saturday night.
Police seized gay rights advocates as well as some religious and nationalist protesters who staged counter-demonstrations. They also took away gay rights activists for talking to reporters, and ripped the bra and shirt off one female protester.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has drawn international criticism by describing homosexuality as “satanic” and seeking to justify official discrimination against gay people in Russia by claiming they help spread the AIDS virus. Luzhkov has banned gay pride rallies in recent years, and attempted marches by gay activists have typically ended in detentions and attacks by nationalist groups.
As you can see from the video cameras and photographers documenting the scene, organizers’ decision to time pride with Eurovision is working out splendidly. This Google News chart shows the increasing media attention.
(Video: ITN News; Photo: Reuters)