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Four gay rights activists arrested in Russia during Olympics protest

Friday, February 7, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian police have arrested four gay rights activists protesting in St. Petersburg on the opening day of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Dmitry Lovetsky, AP

Dmitry Lovetsky, AP (File)

During Friday’s protest, four gay activists unfurled a banner quoting the Olympic charter’s language against discrimination.

The protesters, who gathered on St. Petersburg’s Vasilyevsky Island, were quickly rounded up by police, according to Natalia Tsymbalova, a local LGBT activist. Police refused any immediate comment.

According to the Russian LGBT Network, the activists were taking photos with a banner that said, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter”.

One LGBT activist who witnessed the arrests told BuzzFeed from St Petersburg that the four protestors had stopped on their way to a bridge to take some pictures when they were suddenly surrounded by police cars. The arrival of the police was so sudden that activists had no idea how they had even learned of the planned protest.

“Either the phones are being listened to or maybe there are cameras all over the city; only a few people knew about this action,” said the activist, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety.

Activist Anastasia Smirnova led the group holding a banner, according to the Russian LGBT network.

The incident is believed to be the first arrests under Russia’s gay propaganda law during the Olympic games, and comes just hours ahead of the start of the opening ceremony in Sochi.

A Russian law banning gay “propaganda” from reaching minors has drawn strong international criticism and calls for boycott of the Sochi Games from gay activists and others.

Russian law also bans any unsanctioned protests and violators may face fines or prison sentences.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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46 more reader comments:

  1. Stay strong God is on our side

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:12pm
  2. No, seriously, god is, at best an absentee landlord. No deity is going to help the homosexuals in Russia.

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:18pm
  3. Are you so sure about what you think you know, God has sent a new messenger into the world because the world is going through great changes and past messengers have been misunderstood, so religion that was supposed to unite and free us is being used to divide and enslave us, God has no problems with gay lesbian bisexual transgender, God will is to save every one. and religious peole have used God as the judge and jury to punish who they can not understand or except. This is human issue not God, God finds respect in a loving relationship beautiful, whether it is a homosexual or straight or lesbian, it is how we treat each other that God cares about. www.newmessage.org

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:26pm
  4. Oh but Putin SWORE that they would be fine. Fuck Russia…NEVER TRUST THOSE GAY HATING BASTARDS

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:12pm
  5. Not "fuck russia". Fuck their government.

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:16pm
  6. I assume you gathered my meaning...?

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:37pm
  7. Love it haha fuck you Russia

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:18pm
  8. We shd have boycotted the games =

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:19pm
  9. remember they are confused, and you have been blessed to see this, so you must act, boycotts do to little, time is to short, and God will is for us to save them from themselves, not to judge them, that is not any help. Just food for thought, remember God is on our side, but freedom is earned.

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:30pm
  10. If we boycott then that is the same as turning & walking away when we come upon someone being beaten or raped. It does nothing but allow the crime to go on.

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:35pm
  11. That was quick…

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:20pm
  12. Let’s get real here…this is scary stuff in Russia as well as in our country.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:22pm
  13. What the fuck they doing in that fucking country if they don’t fucking like gay people in Russia !! FUCK RUSSIA

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:22pm
  14. fuck putin with his own dick…the lying bastard !

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:23pm
  15. Down with Vladimir Putin!!!!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:23pm
  16. He didn’t swear activists would not be arrested. He said gay people would be safe. Iirc it was said activists of any kind would be arrested .

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:24pm
  17. Jesus freaks at it again.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:26pm
  18. I refuse to support the Winter Olympics.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:26pm
  19. I despise the russian government!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:29pm
  20. I wonder if there is an organization that people can donate to that will assist LGBT people who need help over there

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:34pm
  21. 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111253

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:37pm
  22. Everyone needs to leave the LGBT community alone, WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS TO DAM IT!!!! The hell with Russia and their hate, just wait till they meet Karma.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:37pm
  23. 3

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:37pm
  24. I will not support these Olympics for just this reason!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:39pm
  25. Russia all eyes on you

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:43pm
  26. Smh. The shit is just plain sadness really. People have their rights and wrongs mixed up. It’s like their brain level isn’t on the same page as everyone else’s. Their ignorant on the topic of lgbtq. Pure sadness.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:44pm
  27. Putin is the fcking Hitler of the 21st century

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:46pm
  28. We’re here, were Queer get used to it!!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:50pm
  29. Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:51pm
  30. I think it’s time that we send a message to the IOC about how their support of Russia with their decision to let the gay hating nation continue to host the Olympics despite their own charter. I know several other locations already have the buildings and infrastructure and could have taken on the games in a matter of months.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:55pm
  31. Not watching it here

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 3:57pm
  32. thats the law in there country the police have no other choice,what do people expect they are different over there.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:00pm
  33. Then the Olympics should NEVER have been sent there at all

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:25pm
  34. freedome of speech dont exist over in russia like it does in western countries.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:01pm
  35. But i wanted to go clubbing in Moscow… *pouts about evil gay hating bastards*

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:05pm
  36. The revolution is on and it’s not going to stop.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:08pm
  37. :-(

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:21pm
  38. God is watching russia. He does not like hatred. .

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:22pm
  39. OK, I have abt the biggest mouth when it comes to human (gay) rights. But here’s the thing…don’t do anything over there!!! It will lead to an arrest, and we need your voices heard loud and clear…PLEASE refrain from taking a stand in Russia. Let’s all do something from the US…and not watching the Olympics is like saying our athletes aren’t good enough…the games are abt them, not anything else. We can find a way, we just have to think before we act!!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:28pm
  40. I won’t buy anything Russian until the laws are changed – and I won’t visit there – I wouldn’t be able to hold my tongue.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:31pm
  41. It is difficult when there is so much hatred and false lies about LGBTQ people.This is a result of that mentality.However let’s not forget that many people believe and act like this in our country.The hands of many are also dripping in blood.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:39pm
  42. As a gay man I have to say that they should of known what they were getting into. This isn’t the same as picketing outside the Supreme Court in Los Angeles. Russia is a foreign country with their own regulations. They were talking on the Olympics last night how about 80-85% of Russians there are highly against gays to the point of violence. So why out yourself in that situation? You have to be smart about it.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:46pm
  43. ja i agree with you marylee…….

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:52pm
  44. I love how the world is standing behind LGBTQQI rights and putting the pressure on Russia:)

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:55pm
  45. The New World Revolution is beginning… What side of history do you want to be in???

    #EQUALITY

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:12pm
  46. #SochiToday

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:22pm