MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian nationalists, communists and religious believers gathered in Moscow on Saturday to denounce plans for a Gay Pride march, as gay activists prepared to lobby the mayor to lift a ban on the event.
About 200 protesters, including flag-waving communists or old women carrying religious icons, held a “Russia March” in the centre of the capital at which some denounced the gay parade as a “satanic act” — a phrase used by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov himself.
In another part of the city, about 200 right-wing activists, many with shaved heads and tattoos, protested against the planned parade.
“We’re here to show we’re strong and prepared to fight for our rights,” one of the protesters told a Reuters cameraman, as colleagues shouted ‘Glory to Russia!’ and made salutes.
Last year, a gay march went ahead despite the ban. Activists were detained by police, abused by militant Christians and attacked by neo-Nazis.
Organisers of the Gay Pride parade said they would gather at Mayor Luzhkov’s office on Sunday and present a letter signed by international politicians asking him to authorise the march. They said permission would allow it to proceed without the threat of violence.
“It’s a collective address and people have the right to be present when it’s handed over to the authorities,” parade organiser Nikolai Alexeyev told reporters.
He said he expected 100 to 200 people to turn up at the mayor’s office on Sunday.
Alexeyev showed reporters another letter dated May 16 refusing a request to hold the march. But the date on which the march was banned was printed as May 27, 2006 — not 2007. It was unclear whether this was a typographical error.
Moscow police, acting on the orders of city authorities, said they would not allow the march to go ahead.
“The capital’s police will suppress any attempt at provocation by all legal means,” Moscow police spokesman Viktor Biryukov told Russian news agencies.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993. Tolerance is slowly rising, with a handful of gay clubs opening in large cities, but the country has no high-profile openly gay politicians or business leaders.
Russian pop duo Tatu, who shot to world fame partly thanks to their teen lesbian image, will be among those presenting the letter at the mayor’s office on Sunday.
“I don’t consider this to be a demonstration, but a festival where every one of us can unite regardless of orientation,” said band member Yulia Volkova. “Our city should be fashionable.”