Over 120 people including a German MP have been arrested in Moscow after campaigners attempted to hold the capital’s first gay rights rally.
Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, and a Russian court, had rejected applications for the event claiming it would cause violent protests, but gay campaigners from all over the world converged in the Russian capital this afternoon.
They were met by religious and nationalist protesters chanting anti gay slogans and 1000 riot police aiming to stop demonstrations in the Red Square.
The arrests were made after a group of activists, including event organiser, Nikolay Alexeyev, attempted to lay flowers at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a war memorial, equating the struggle for gay rights with fighting fascism.
Eyewitnesses said gay activists were beaten by protesters, Sebastien Maria told Reuters, “What happened today unfortunately is representative of the non-respect for human rights in Russia. You can’t express your point of view, and you are not protected from extremists.”
Volker Beck, a Green member of the German parliament was attacked by 20 religious protesters and punched in the face whilst he was giving a television interview.
“There was no aggression from our side, we were simply there,” Herr Beck told the DPA press agency. “It is unacceptable that the police offer no protection to gays on the streets.”
Around 100 religious and fascist extremists dressed in black kicked and punched gay activists. “Moscow is not Sodom!” shouted a group of Russian women clutching religious icons.
“We are Russians. We are Orthodox. These soldiers died so we could live like Russians, not so these people could come here and tell us what to do,” one Christian protester told Reuters.
The veteran gay rights campaigner and regular contributor to PinkNews.co.uk, Peter Tatchell was amongst those taking part in the march. “Both the authorities and the fascists had the same objective, to suppress the Moscow gay pride” he said following the confrontations between the gay activists and the religious protesters.
The Mayor of Moscow banned the gay parade and threatened to to also outlaw the parallel gay rights conference and festival.
Mr Luzhkov says he will not allow a gay pride parade “in any form” and that any attempt to march in the streets will be “resolutely quashed.”
He claims the ban will protect gays and lesbians from potential violent protests
A statement from the Mayor’s office said: “This march could provoke a wave of protests which could lead to mass breaches of public order and disturbances, therefore the application for the march has not been successful.”
A separate gay conference is taking place in the city as well, marking the thirteenth anniversary of the 1993 abolition of Soviet-era laws against male homosexuality.