Today 11 LGBT activists of St. Petersburg were arrested for carrying rainbow flags as part of the May 1st civil rights and freedom march on Nevsky prospect, city's main avenue.
This year's May 1st march is a peaceful demonstration, permitted by the city administration. LGBT activists were marching as part of a larger "democratic" column, consisting of various democratic and civil society groups of St. Petersburg. 5 minutes into the march, police requested removal of rainbow flags. When activists refused, they were forcefully detained and are now facing charges of "propaganda of homosexuality" and non-compliance with the police.One activist was detained for holding a sign "homophobia is illegal."
11 activists are still being held by the police. Among those detained are Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, Mikhail Belodedov of Coming Out, Sergey Kondrashov, lawyer and straight ally, and Elena Popova, director of St. Petersburg organization "Soldier's mothers", defending rights of draftees, reports LGBT organization Coming Out.
On March 30 "homosexual propaganda" law went into effect in St. Petersburg, imposing administrative fines on the so-called "propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, and pedophilia" to minors. On April 7th activists were arrested for holding signs "no to silencing of hate crimes against gays and lesbians" and "our family friend is a lesbian, her family is socially equal to ours" and charged with propaganda and non-compliance with police. One activist was found guilty of non-compliance, but the propaganda charge was ignored by the court. As of today, there have been no convictions by the court under this law in St. Petersburg.
When asked, Russian authorities stated numerous times that the "propaganda law" was intended only to protect minors and not for limiting LGBT human rights activity.