ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Sixty-seven people were arrested Saturday at an LGBT event in St. Petersburg, Russia, as anti-gay protesters clashed with LGBT rights advocates, a police official told LGBTQ Nation.
The event, to mark yesterday’s National Coming Out Day, an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as LGBT, was scheduled by organizers to be held in the city’s downtown at the Field of Mars (Marsovo Pole) war memorial.
According to police, about 200 conservative and religious activists — which included Russian Orthodox church protesters and members of Russian nationalist organizations — were pre-staged in the area surrounding the Field of Mars and prevented the LGBT activists from approaching the memorial.
The clash between the two groups erupted as the anti-gay forces, singing religious songs and shouting anti-gay slurs, attempted to prevent the LGBT activists from unfurling Pride flags and posters containing LGBT-affirming slogans and messages.
Russian Riot police broke up the fighting, arresting 15 LGBT activists and 52 anti-gay protesters.
The Field of Mars is an area where demonstrations are allowed without special sanctions.
The St. Petersburg city government had sanctioned the rally despite the Russian government’s June passage of a contentious law outlawing gay “propaganda.”
While the law’s proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children, critics say the legislation is part of a much wider crackdown on Russia’s LGBT community, and claim it has led to increasing pressure and threats of violence from homophobic vigilantes.
A similar June protest in St. Petersburg resulted in 50 arrests and numerous LGBT activists being beaten by anti-gay protesters.