IDAHOT rally in St. Petersburg takes place despite bans
"Coming Out" LGBT* group organized its anniversary 10th IDAHOT rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, under the slogan "Different. Equal. Together", the Russian take on the international version "Alliances for Solidarity." 150 participants took part. There were speeches, music, and the traditional balloons of all colors, including black (dedicated to LGBT* of Chechnya).
For an external observer, the action seemed peaceful and innocent, but behind the scenes, it involved working with 7 different regions of the city: informing their administrations, receiving "bans", challenging them in courts, negotiating with the police and the city ombudsman. The rally site was changed several times, last time one hour before the event, after we learned that 200 kids were brought to the site we announced, for an event aimed at "propaganda of healthy lifestyle," and the police told us in no uncertain terms that rally participants would be detained.
Our rally site was a "hyde park" of one of the "sleeper neighborhoods" of the city (since our favorite central location Marsovo Field is no longer available by law). The police, however, seemed unaware of the law regulating "hyde parks," and while everyone was celebrating, our lawyer was explaining the law to a group of riot police in full gear. Thanks to her efforts, instead of detentions we were provided with protection.
The number of participants was modest compared to western prides, and the location was not the beautiful center of the city. But, for almost an hour, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia was celebrated under open St. Petersburg skies.
Because of the criminal ignorance of our government and society, millions of Russian citizens are today without rights, support, or protection. Any sexual orientation that differs from heterosexual can form basis for discriminatory legislation, threats, psychological and physical violence on the streets and in families, inhumane torture, and even murder of LGBT people in the North Caucasus. As the space for freedoms shrinks around us, the chance to come out in the open and speak out about what's important becomes all the more meaningful for LGBT* people, and for all those who care about justice, equality, and humanness in Russia.