Global gay rights leaders in Moscow for banned rally
Gay rights activists from Russia and Europe as well the United States planned Saturday to stage an unprecedented rally near the Kremlin despite a police vow to arrest anyone who shows up.
Moscow -- whose former mayor once likened gays to the devil -- has banned gay pride parades for six years running, citing public discomfort with behaviour that was considered illegal in Soviet times.
"The mayor is defending himself by pointing to public outrage and requests for another rally by opponents of sexual perversion on the same day," said Moscow gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev.
The European Court of Human Rights has already required Russia to pay Alexeyev damages for banning earlier marches. and Amnesty International called on Moscow authorities Thursday to change their mind.
Some 120 Russian activists were arrested during their first attempt to stage a Moscow parade in 2006, and city authorities warned those who show up at the Kremlin wall to expect no leniency.
"Their illegal and provocative actions will be immediately stopped in strict accordance with existing law," a Moscow police spokesman told the RIA Novosti news agency.
The spokesman said officers would be out on the streets in large numbers because the rally coincided with a national holiday commemorating Russia's border guards -- an occasion that has seen drunken violence in the past.
The activists planned to lay a wreath at the Kremlin's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 1:00 pm (0900 GMT) before gathering outside the Moscow mayor's office a few blocks down the street.
"Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are universal," said renowned London human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Tatchell was briefly detained while attending an unsanctioned Moscow event in 2007. But his fellow international marchers said their arrest would only prove a point about the state of freedoms in Russia.
"Our methods are nonviolent," said US gay rights activist Dan Choi. "My hope is that this will be the last (gay) pride (parade) prohibited by this country."
© 2011 AFP