A Refracted Rainbow: Attacks and Bans on Gay Pride Parades (Updated)
As we enter the “Pride Season,” with LGBTI events planned across the globe, we’ll update this page with news from gay pride marches threatened by private violent acts and state restrictions.
- (6/23/11) In Saint Petersburg, Russia, city officials denied a permit for a Slavic Gay Pride event. Meanwhile, in Moscow, police detained more than a dozen people, mostly women, holding solo pickets and distributing leaflets in support of gay rights. The Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Kostyuchenko, who made headlines by coming out as lesbian in May, was among the detained activists.
- (6/12/11) In Split, Croatia, thousands of ultranationalist supporters gathered to protest the town’s first gay pride on June 12. Counterdemonstrators quickly overpowered the police, throwing rocks, firecrackers, bottles, and trash at the marchers. While the police created a buffer zone to protect the marchers, the organizers felt this was not enough to prevent violence, which left five people injured. At least one hundred counterdemonstrators were detained in Split. Croatia’s President and Prime Minister condemned the violence in Split, which came only a day after the country received a final approval for its entry into the European Union in 2013. A further investigation into the attacks has begun. On June 18, a second Croatian pride parade was held in Zagreb. Over 2,000 people attended and no incidents of violence were reported.
- (6/11/11) In Warsaw, Poland, the police worked to protect the pride demonstration on June 11. Counterdemonstrators tried to throw firecrackers and shouted antigay slurs, which did not stop the parade. Last year, the police similarly had to intervene to protect the marchers in the city that has a decade-long history with gay pride events (including two episodes when the parade was banned in 2004 and 2005, in violation of three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights).
- (5/28/11) In Moscow, Russia, the authorities denied permission for a Moscow gay pride event for the sixth consecutive year in May. City officials cited numerous letters from public officials, religious organizations and private citizens urging the authorities to prohibit a demonstration. Similar bans were pronounced illegal by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in October 2010. On May 28, a small gay rights demonstration was attacked, leaving several injured, by a crowd of ultranationalist / Orthodox / neo-Nazi supporters. The attackers were not found; instead, the police detained thirty demonstrators who rallied for gay rights in Russia.
Why Pride Parades? Gay pride parades offer an opportunity for many LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) individuals to exercise the right to freedom of expression. First organized in New York City in commemoration of the Stonewall riots, pride parades have come to symbolize the resistance to intolerance and bigotry that surround LGBTI people in their daily lives. Some governments continue restricting peaceful demonstrations by denying permits to organizers of pride marches. While such restrictions are damaging and unacceptable, the authorities have a positive obligation to protect those who exercise their right to free assembly. Thus, LGBTI individuals’ legal right to organize pride events must not be either hindered by government officials or impeded by violent attacks of private individuals. Despite significant improvements over the past decade, we continue to witness both restrictions and violent attacks on pride parades. Gay pride parades and events, particularly in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union have resulted in political diatribes attacking people of minority sexual orientations from political and other leaders, inadequate police protection, and acts of harassment and violence against the participants. Police is often the difference-maker when counterdemonstrations gather to protest against the pride marches.