Seventeen Gay Activists Protesting St. Petersburg’s "Homosexual Propaganda" Law
Seventeen gay rights activists have been arrested by Russian police after participating in a May Day celebration in St. Petersburg this week, Reuters reported.
The activists were arrested under the city's new "homosexual propaganda" law, which can fine individuals up to $17,000 for "the promotion of homosexuality" and "pedophilia among minors."
The law defines "homosexual propaganda" as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," that could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations."
A member of the St. Petersburg-based LGBT rights group Coming Out claimed that a number of gay activists from different groups were arrested in different parts of the city after they tried to unfurl gay flags.
"(Activists) began to wave flags and (police) detained them," Svetiana Barsukova said.
Coming Out also made an official statement about the incident.
"This year's May 1st march is a peaceful demonstration, permitted by the city administration. LGBT activists were marching as part of a larger "democratic" column, consisting of various democratic and civil society groups of St. Petersburg," the statement reads. "5 minutes into the march, police requested removal of rainbow flags. When activists refused, they were forcefully detained and are now facing charges of "propaganda of homosexuality" and non-compliance with the police. One activist was detained for holding a sign "homophobia is illegal."
Late last month, a judge cleared a straight married Russian protester from being the first citizen to be charged under the controversial law.
Sergey Kondrashov was arrested for holding up a gay rights banner that read: "A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her ... and her family is just as equal as ours."
"The courts are afraid of applying this law and do not want to take responsibility for its further enforcement," Kondrashov explained. "The judge's decision is illogical in a legal sense, and it lacks common sense."
Pop icon Madonna is scheduled to perform in the city and told Bloomberg Businessweek that should use the concert as an opportunity to speak out against the anti-gay law.
"I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed," the singer told the newspaper in an email. "I don't run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."
Watch clips of activists being detained below: