The organisers of St Petersburg’s first gay pride march, which was due to take place this Saturday, have been told by city officials that they are forbidden to go ahead with the event.
The organisers had proposed a selection of different routes and itineraries for the march, all of which were turned down flat by City Hall. In the days prior to the verdict, support from worldwide Prides arrived following communication that anti-gay groups were covertly organising violent attacks against Pride participants in St Petersburg.
The St Petersburg-based LGBT group behind the march, Equality, said they had letters of support from Sydney Mardi Gras, Victoria Pride, Athens Pride, Tucson Pride, and the smaller Gloucester Pride in the UK which will also take place this Saturday.
InterPride, the International Association of Pride organisers and the IDAHO Committee slammed the ban which they claim goes against the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On top of this, organisers of St Petersburg Pride who said they turned to 13 Embassies of EU member States plus the US, Canada, Norway and Switzerland, claim to have received not one public statement of support in return. Maria Efremenkova, the chief Pride organiser said, “We are extremely disappointed by the attitude of foreign diplomats. We did not ask anything more than what the same embassies did in Vilnius, Bucharest, Belgrade or Bratislava when they issued a public statement of support to local Pride organizers.”
St Petersburg City Hall did, however, give their blessing to the Youth faction of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to organise a March in support of traditional family values which will take place the same day than the banned Pride March.
This has made some LGBT people even more determined to defy the ban, and several plan to risk their safety by marching regardless on Saturday. Ms Efremenkova said, “We will march despite the ban because we have a duty to defy injustice like we already did last month in Minsk and Moscow[. . .] the St Petersburg authorities decided to put an embargo on our civil rights and this is absolutely unacceptable”. She added, “There will be just a couple of us ready to face arrest, detention and beating, but we have no intention of giving up on our civil rights”. A seminar is planned on the eve of the march to offer participants information on how to react if they are arrested.
St Petersburg is the fourth Russian city to officially ban a Gay Pride March, the others being Moscow, Tambov and Ryazan.