Russian gays claim first sanctioned protest in Moscow
Gay rights activists said they held their first sanctioned picket in Moscow on Friday following the sacking earlier this week of openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who called gay parades "satanic."
Nikolai Alexeyev, the chief organiser of the Moscow gay pride events, called Friday's peaceful picket in central Moscow a "historic day."
"Sexual minorities for the first time ever were able to demonstrate being protected by the Russian police. I think this is a historic day," he told a throng of journalists.
The picket by 10 protesters was interrupted briefly by a group of young men wielding water pistols, who sprayed water at Alexeyev before running away. Nikolai Bayev, one of the organisers of the Moscow gay pride event, said that one counter-protestor hit him in the face and he asked police to provide extra security.
"I think the police are a bit lost," Bayev said. "They are not used to defending sexual minorities in Moscow."
A group of counter-protesters in black also briefly held up posters depicting roosters -- a Russian slang term for gay men.
Police detained at least two counter-protesters, AFP journalists witnessed.
The picket by organisers of Moscow gay event was held outside the office of Swiss International Air Lines, which Alexeyev accuses of allowing his detention at a Moscow airport last month as he attempted to board a flight to Geneva.
City authorities permitted the picket, which according to the application filed by Alexeyev was not about gay rights.
Riot police have roughly broken up four previous attempts to hold gay pride events in Moscow, although this year Alexeyev and a group of international activists managed to evade police and hold a brief flash-mob.
Moscow's long-running mayor repeatedly called gay pride marches "satanic" and said that society was not ready for such events. He was sacked on Tuesday by President Dmitry Medvedev, who said he had lost confidence in his rule.
© 2010 AFP