Activism


Police detain an activist during a protest rally by opposition group "Another Russia" in central Moscow Sunday. (Reuters)

For the last two days, Muscovites have been taking to the streets to protest the recent (and rigged) Russian parliamentary election results. They have been joined by many people from other Russian cities who have dropped everything to join these unprecedented protests.

For a summary of the activities that took place on Monday and Tuesday, click here and here. The WaPo also has some good photos. You can also see my Twitter feed, where I’ve been re-tweeting the live tweets directly from the streets.

Here are a few important takeaways:

  1. Many of the participants are first-time protestors. Before this, they considered themselves too cynical to participate in oppositional activism, let alone vote in elections they knew to be rigged. Thousands upon thousands are meeting in the streets despite the heavy (and predictably violent) presence of police and special forces.
  2. People are very active online, on Facebook for events, and on Twitter (the hashtag for Monday was #5dec or #5дек, but I’m not sure what they are using now). Some are drawing comparisons to Tahrir Square.
  3. There are widespread (and deeply-held) rumors that Americans and other foreigners are paying Russians $$ to participate in such protests in order to tarnish Russia’s image. Putin has said things to spread this type of belief in the past. Even activists are wary of American support (as evidence by the tone when I wrote an English-language message of support on Facebook).
  4. Putin’s response has been to organize massive rallies of supporters for the “United Russia” party. People are being bused to Moscow, and one woman, when asked why she was joining, replied: “I don’t know–they just put us on a bus.”

This LiveJournal user (reminder: LiveJournal or Живо́й Журна́л is a serious blogging platform in Russia) posted some great photos. I’ve translated some of the signs in the images:

  • Photo #3: Police attempted to keep #s low by using metal detectors. So many people showed up that they spilled onto neighboring boulevards.
  • Photo #5: “These elections are a farce” and “UnitedRussia in the trash” (except the Russian has great word play that I can’t translate).
  • Photo #4: “Russia Will Be Free” and “We’ll Return Power to the People.”
  • Photo #6: “Gays and Lesbians Against Crooks and Thieves.”
  • Last photo reads “United Russia is the party of crooks and thieves.”

Let’s see what comes of all this. And don’t forget that the presidential elections are coming up in March, when Putin is expected to take back his old job (how convenient).

Advertisements

Moscow Pride 2011 Logo: Features a cupola like the one on Moscow's famous St. Basil's Cathedral, except in rainbow colorsThe Russian Government has marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by once again banning Moscow Gay Pride. Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Ludmila Shvetsova cites the city’s inability to provide adequate protection and security from the anti-gay forces who will inevitably attend the event.

This is bullshit. One of the main threats of violence for the Pride organizers and marchers comes from Moscow’s Police and Riot guard themselves, who have interrupted the marches and violently arrested participants year after year.

While organizers of 6th annual Moscow Pride on May 28th of this year plan to hold their event regardless of the City Hall decision, this certainly comes as a blow to their organizing and once again reflects the stubborn bigotry of Moscow’s leadership. Their next step is to move their plea directly to the federal government and apply for a permit to march in front of the Kremlin, the federal seat of power, an area which is under the direct jurisdiction of President Dmitri Medvedev.

Organizers are quite used to this kind of treatment by their own government and have always circumvented it by planning events in secret and being prepared for arrests, intimidation and interruption. After all, they managed to hold Pride events even under former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously called the “faggots” “satanic.”

I met Moscow Pride’s main organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, at an event earlier this year. Alekseev’s persona moves easily from high-profile professional as he travels the world speaking about human rights to on-the-ground rabble-rouser. He told those of us in attendance at a Columbia University-sponsored event that his organization’s tactic keep getting more and more James Bond-esque because they have to do so much of the planning in secret to avoid getting shut down before they even hit the streets. Alekseev says that organizers are followed and have their phones tapped in the weeks leading up to Pride every year.

Alekseev is not all gloom and doom, though. In that talk (watch a complete video here), he confidently insisted that within a few years, the debate in Russia will change from whether or not to ban marches to the more serious considerations of marriage equality, sex ed and homophobia. Not only that, but Russian LGBTQ activists had a victory late last year with the city government of St. Petersburg authorized its first ever gay rally.

I encourage you to check out the complete video of Alekseev’s talk to learn about the history of the Moscow Pride movement, their victories at the European Court of Human Rights and their dreams for the future.

Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word "QUEERS."

Photo: Bob Fowler / News Sentinel

I usually write my own original content in this blog and don’t simply repost other people’s words. I try to add my perspective to what’s being said about LGBT issues. But this email I just received from GetEqual was so shocking and upsetting and really said it all, so I am just going to repost it here:

Dear friends,

Sadly, even with each step we make towards progress, we can’t forget the discrimination LGBT folks face across the country…

We’re working with an extraordinarily brave Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word “QUEERS.” Returning from an anniversary celebration weekend six months ago to the ashes of their former life, they have been fighting with their insurance company (American National Property and Casualty) simply to honor their homeowners policy and allow their family to move forward.

The Stuttes’ neighbor had threatened them before, pledging to kill their dog (found poisoned shortly thereafter) and to burn down their home (done). They’re now living in another part of Tennessee, fearful that their neighbor will find them and kill them, since she announced to them that, “The only thing better than one dead queer is two dead queers.”

We’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure that this family sees justice, and have partnered with Change.org to mobilize as many justice-minded folks as possible to petition the insurance company, ANPAC, to make good on the Stuttes’ policy.

Sign the petition here!

Please help the Stuttes family in this small way to at least let them recuperate from the damages done to their home. This will in no way make up for the trauma and violence enacted upon them, but will allow them some stability to move forward and rebuild.

My wishes go out to them and to all survivors of vicious hate crimes.

Brady Much Remixed

Silly photo illustration by me.

I had a conference call earlier this evening for the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (I’m on NYAC’s Board of Directors) and it got me thinking. (NYAC works to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of LGBTQ youth does this through advocacy for and with young people and capacity-building with youth-serving organizations.)

At the start of the call we went around and introduced ourselves (many of us have never met in person) and said how many siblings we have. I think this was a great ice breaker (thanks Amita!) because it was a simple question: not too invasive, but still unexpectedly revealing.

As we went around, two people said they had seven (!) siblings, two more had four siblings, and the rest had fewer. People answered the question in different ways: some just said the number, some explained whether the siblings were biological, half, or step, some gave context beforehand explaining ages and birth countries. (more…)