The thousands who attend Manchester Pride this weekend are being urged to use the event to send a message of solidarity to LGBT people in its sister city of St Petersburg.
Earlier this year, the local government of St Petersburg introduced tough laws banning the “promotion” of homosexuality. In effect this makes illegal any public information, rallies, marches or displays of homosexuality.
Councillor Bev Craig, Manchester City Council’s lead member for lesbian issues, said: “It’s hard to believe that in this day and age that people still suffer state persecution simply because of their sexuality. But, sadly, that is true in many parts of the world, including our sister city of St Petersburg.
“This is a great chance to send a clear message to gay people in St Petersburg that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their fight for equality. It would be amazing if we could send thousands of messages of support to our friends in St Petersburg so I would ask people to please send a text. It will only take a minute, but it will mean so much.
“This shows that Manchester Pride is about much more than celebration – it’s also about solidarity, it’s about protest, it’s about getting angry about injustice. And it is about all of us – gay and straight – taking a stand to say that human dignity is a universal right. I’m proud that we are showing that politics is very much still at the heart of Pride.”
Leaflets and flags will be given to the spectators at Saturday’s parade and a special banner, carrying a message of solidarity for LGBT people in St Petersburg, will be carried through the streets. It will also be sent to St Petersburg after Pride.
Attending Manchester Pride is one of Russia’s leading LGBT activists who will share her experiences of living in St Petersburg. Polina Svachenko is one of the directors of Coming Out, a St Petersburg-based LGBT group that provides vital support to gay people in the city and lobbies for LGBT rights.
The group hopes to organise a festival in the city next month to celebrate LGBT life, despite the oppressive legislation.
Ms Savachenko will address the crowds at the main stage in the festival, will take part in the parade and meet representatives from Manchester LGBT groups.
Cllr Craig added: “It really is an honour to welcome Polina to Pride – she is inspirational. I also hope she will galvanise us as here in the west we all have a part to play in standing up to say that oppression and inequality simply will not stand.
John Stewart, chief executive of Manchester Pride, said: “We are pleased Polina is able to join us at Manchester Pride and share her experience of the regressive laws that have been passed in St Petersburg.
“I am sure that the people of Manchester will come out in force to show their support and demand change in our sister city.”
The theme of this year’s Manchester Pride parade is “Queer’d Science” in honour of computer genius Alan Turing who would have been 100 this year and whose work in Manchester led directly to the technological revolution, which has transformed modern life.
Turing was prosecuted over his sexuality in 1952 and forced to undergo brutal medical treatment to “cure” him, which most likely led to his death, a probable suicide, though this has since been disputed.