by Rex Wockner
Fourteen activists were jailed overnight after police broke up the second gay pride march in St. Petersburg, Russia, just two minutes after it started June 25.
The detainees said their jail cell was tiny and suffocatingly hot, and that police gave them no water.
In court appearances the following day, they received small fines (the biggest was $35) for organizing an illegal public action.
However, they face an additional charge of disobeying police orders, which can carry a penalty of up to 15 days in jail.
The “march” consisted of a boat on the Neva River carrying a huge rainbow flag, which was executed by one group of activists, an attempt by a second group to begin marching from the statue of Peter the Great, carrying flags and banners, and a similar demonstration nearby on the stairs of the Constitutional Court.
The whole thing lasted only two minutes before police swooped in and put an end to it.
The crackdown follows a nearly identical one on Moscow’s sixth gay pride attempt in May.
Both police actions violated a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Russia cannot ban gay pride events. The court found that previous bans in Moscow violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.
European gay activists have responded to Russia’s flouting of the ruling by calling on the Council of Europe to suspend Russia’s voting rights in the association.
Later on June 25, about 100 activists in Germany protested at Russia’s embassy in Berlin, including openly gay Bundestag member Volker Beck.
“Russian LGBT activists, today in St. Petersburg, and in May in Moscow are heroes that we can be proud of,” Beck said. “The actions of the police are completely unacceptable and I expect from our government to explicitly address this issue in bilateral discussions with the Russian government.”