Tuesday, May 30, 2006Russia? Are you ever going to get your act together? I mean, here's to a job well-done by the Russian police: arrest the gay guy who gets roughed up out of the blue during an interview and let the neo-nazi walk away. You'd think Russian opinion would fall with the gays. Russia builds, and rightfully so, a large part of their national identity around WWII, so one would think neonazis would be especially unpopular.
Moscow - Moscow police on Saturday arrested around 120 people during an unsanctioned gay rights demonstration at which a German MP was injured in a scuffle with right-wing activists.
Municipal authorities had banned a planned gay and lesbian parade through the capital despite a court appeal by organizers who pledged to hold a rally regardless.
Around two dozen gay activists mounted an initial protest in front of the city hall where violence ensued as other groups of citizens reportedly including right-wing radicals tried to break up the gathering.
Police units then moved on the crowd and made numerous arrests. Up to 200 other protesters also moved along the city's Tverskaya main street.
Volker Beck, a member of the German Bundestag who took part in the event, was punched in the face in a clash with alleged extremists. Police stood back during the violence, he said.
'There was no aggression from our side, we were simply there,' Beck told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. 'It is unacceptable that the police offer no protection to gays on the streets.'
The politician was detained in the fracas and kicked into a police bus. He was released with an apology when officers saw his parliamentary credentials.
City authorities were unrelenting at the hard line taken by police. Gay protesters had acted provocatively, said Sergei Tsoi, spokesman for Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who had banned the event.
Smoke canisters were tossed and signal flares fired, prompting police retaliation, Tsoi said.
Gay activists were also detained approaching the Alexander Garden by the Kremlin wall, where police prevented them from laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Most of those detained were later released, law enforcement officials said.
Riot police also clashed with groups of presumed right-wing extremists and made some 50 arrests as they approached the gathering.
About 120 drivers also took part in a gay car rally in a western Moscow suburb.
A spokesperson for the Duma lower house of parliament called the gay protest a 'provocation' and praised the actions of the police.
Mayor Luzhkov claimed earlier that 99 per cent of Muscovites supported the ban on the event. While European countries were more accepting of the gay community, a parade was impermissible in Russia for 'moral and ethical considerations,' according to the mayor.
'One should not demonstrate publicly his deviations from the norm in the organisation of life and sex,' he said.
A senior leader of Russia's Muslims had also opposed the event, saying that participants should be 'given a thrashing.'
Homosexuality was considered a crime in the Soviet Union and was only legalized in independent Russia in 1993.
According to activists, the country still suffers from state sanctioned gay rights abuses, while gays and lesbians face broad public intolerance.