In a bid to promote the prominence of this May's Moscow Pride and thus hopefully forestall threatened repression by the authorities, Russia's foremost gay leader, Nikolai Alekseev, will tour seven U.S. cities February 26 thru March 7.
For the last five years, lesbian and gay activists in Russia have faced beatings, government bans, intimidation and arrests simply for trying to establish their right to demonstrate for equal rights, let alone winning the rights themselves.
Joining Alekseev on the tour will be Andy Thayer of the Chicago direct-action group, Gay Liberation Network (http://www.GayLiberation.net), which is the national sponsor of the tour. Thayer has participated in the last two illegal Moscow Pride and written extensively on the subject. Alekseev will also present the U.S. premiere of a short film documenting the history of Moscow Pride.
All major religious denominations and political parties in the country have called for continued government repression of Moscow Pride. Yet after more than five years of "illegal" protests and legal battles in the Russian and international courts, in late October Alekseev's GayRussia organization (http://www.GayRussia.ru) alone among the myriad opposition groups in the country won the first-ever victory in the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court ruled that Russia had violated Russian LGBT's right to assemble and order the government to pay GayRussia the equivalent of $40,000 US.
But the Russian government appealed the Court's ruling and yesterday Moscow's newly appointed mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, vowed to ban the Pride demonstration anyway (http://en.rian.ru/society/20110216/162636979.html). A ruling on the Russian government's appeal of the European Court decision is expected before the May 28th demonstration. Legal or "illegal," Russian lesbians and gays have vowed to go forward with their protest.
Assuming, as is most likely, that the European court rejects the Russian government's appeal, the Russian authorities will be confronted with a choice which will reverberate far beyond LGBT issues: Either jeopardize closer ties to Western Europe by ignoring the court ruling, or obey the ruling and gain greater international legitimacy by being seen as a nation improving its human rights record. The final answer will come on May 28 when GayRussia has scheduled Moscow Pride 2011.
Public appearances in the U.S. tour are:
CHICAGO - Saturday, February 26, 2 PM at the Merlo Public Library, 644 W. Belmont Avenue. Hosted by the Gay Liberation Network and endorsed by Chicagoland CodePINK, News & Letters, and the Community Alliance and Action Network (C.A.A.N.)
NEW YORK - Tuesday, March 1, 5:30 PM at Columbia University's Faculty House on Manhattan (http://facultyhouse.columbia.edu/content/contact-us-new-york-event-and-reception-venue#Directions), Garden Room 2. Hosted by Columbia University and Professor Tanya Domi.
NEW YORK - Wednesday, March 2, 7 PM at the LGBT Center, 208 W. 13th Street, New York. Hosted by QueerRising, New York.
FORT WORTH - Thursday, March 3, 3 PM at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School, 2855 South University Drive, Weatherly Hall (downstairs community room).
DALLAS - Friday, March 4, 7 PM at Cathedral of Hope - Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road.
The Dallas/Fort Worth events are sponsored by Brite Divinity Office of Field Education, The Dallas Voice, The Interfaith Chapel, Agapé MCC, The Cathedral of Hope, and The Resource Center of Dallas.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Monday, March 7, 5:30-7:30 PM, San Francisco LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street. Hosted by the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.
For information, including press availabilities, please email the national tour sponsor, Gay Liberation Network, at LGBTliberation@aol.com