(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International urges St. Petersburg authorities in Russia to allow a peaceful Pride march organized by the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to proceed as planned on Saturday, July 7.
Earlier this week, Pride organizers and city officials reached an agreement to hold the event at Poliustrov Park, an area on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Russian authorities withdrew their consent on Thursday, however, citing numerous complaints against the decision as the justification for their reversal.
This is not the first time St. Petersburg officials have played this game with the LGBT community. Over the last two years, local NGO Ravnopravie ("Equality") has submitted multiple applications to hold a Pride event. Authorities have routinely approved such proposals for events in remote areas of the city, only to back out of the agreement at the last minute.
"Such behavior paints the St. Petersburg authorities in a very negative light," said Sergei Nikitin, director of the Moscow office of Amnesty International. "It is time for St. Petersburg to portray itself as a global city where tolerance and respect for human rights are held high and where there is no place for discrimination."
In March 2012, St. Petersburg adopted a law banning "propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors" in the city. Two months later, LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev was fined for such "propaganda;" he had held aloft a banner quoting a famous Soviet actress which read, "Homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice."
Since the adoption of the law, thousands of people around the world, including some 30,000 Amnesty International activists have written to the St. Petersburg authorities, urging them to stop human rights abuses against LGBT individuals and to allow St. Petersburg Pride to take place as planned.
Last month, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe publicly questioned Russia's commitment to human rights after similar "homosexuality propaganda" laws were adopted in several other regions of the country.
"This is a moment of truth for St. Petersburg city authorities – by allowing this weekend's Pride to go ahead peacefully, they have a chance to show that they do respect human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and that they do not discriminate against any members of society," said Nikitin.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.