Anti LGBT+ protesters descended on a hotel yesterday (April 11) in Kiev, Ukraine where the European Lesbian Conference (ELC) was due to kick off.
Dozens of protesters blocked the entrance to the hotel and held signs that said “homosexuality is a disease” and “go back to hell sodomites,” according to the Thomas Reuters Foundation.
A number of protesters also allegedly tried to break into the hotel to throw tear gas canisters but were prevented by police, according to Olena Shevchenko of LGBT+ group Insight.
Protesters broke windows at the hotel and wrote ‘homophobic threats’ on walls
Oksana Pokalchuk, director of Amnesty International Ukraine, posted photos to Twitter which showed broken windows at the hotel and “homophobic threats” written on walls.
One protester, Margarita Korotkikh, said their goal was “to put pressure on the government and explain that heterosexuals are against LGBT propaganda,” according to Public Radio.
The group of protesters was reportedly made up of about 35 people mostly from religious groups.
“We need to be outside and not to keep our sexuality and genders hidden at home under the sheets.”
– European Lesbian Conference Chair Silvia Casalino
When the conference kicked off today, Shevchenko took to the stage and asked attendees: “Are you scared?” which drew a chorus of “No!” in reply.
In a speech at the conference today, Svitlana Lukhymovych said: “The majority of people in Ukraine are not like the people outside of our venue protesting. The majority are too busy trying to make ends meet to care about us lesbians. It’s our goal to make sure they don’t end up joining those protesters.”
Participants plan to stage a short march in Ukraine this weekend
Executive director of ILGA Europe, Evelyne Paradis, praised those taking part in the conference. She said: “It is particularly amazing as you are organising the #ELC2019 in spite of efforts to try to silence you and you are showing an incredible strength and resilience in doing this.”
Participants in the conference plan to stage a short march tomorrow (Saturday 13 April) in Kiev, however they have said that this will be dependent upon security.
European Lesbian Conference chair Silvia Casalino said the protests were “stressful.”
“A lot of us are used to that,” she told the Thomas Reuters Foundation. “We need to be outside and not to keep our sexuality and genders hidden at home under the sheets.”
Last November, a rally for transgender rights was disrupted in Kiev when a group of religious protesters confronted them and demanded they move to a new location.
Holding banners, rainbow and transgender flags, a group of around 40 LGBT+ campaigners relocated in front of the University metro station, to continue their legally-sanctioned rally.
But counter-protesters attacked them with smoke bombs and shouted homophobic slurs.