Russian gay rights activists held two unsanctioned protests in Moscow on Sunday demanding the right to hold a pride parade, but they faced a violent reaction from members of the Russian Orthodox Church, who threw punches and trampled on rainbow flags. Police said 40 people were arrested, including almost all of the 30 gay rights activists and only a few of the 50 Orthodox counter-protesters. Those speaking out for equality responded to how they were treated by police:
NIKOLAI ALEXEYEV: I am arrested at Moscow Pride City Hall protest just for opening my mouth to talk to a crowd of journalists. I have no words.
IGOR YASIN: All of our rights are being trampled on here in Russia. Your rights aren’t safe and you’re not physically safe.
GALINA KAPTUR: It’s as if they thought that if all left-handed people held a parade, then afterward everyone would become left-handed. This is wrong.
According to Alexeyev’s twitter feed, he and other activists were charged only with holding an unsanctioned public event. Alexeyev, founder of Moscow Pride, was recently the first person arrested under St. Petersburg’s new law against any form of LGBT “propaganda” — his sign simply read “homosexuality is not a perversion.” It’s unclear how those few who were arrested from the Orthodox Church were charged, if at all. Watch this incredible video of the petty violence that took place in front of reporters at the protests: