St. Petersburg police arrested eight gay rights activists today as they protested strict laws banning “homosexual propaganda” in the Russian city.
The arrests happened at separate rallies, The Associated Press reported.
Police took the first three people into custody at a park, and then detained five more near the Smolny complex, site of a monastery, churches and school.
Few people braved the protests; the AP said only nine in total arrived to demonstrate.
There were plans to hold a gay pride parade, and after St. Petersburg officials rejected permit requests, organizers said they would go ahead without permission, Russian news services said.
“The goal of the event is to attract the attention of the public and the authorities to violations of civil rights of the LGBT community and to the need to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination over sexual orientation,” a statement from St. Petersburg officials said.
However, that parade is “aimed at promoting homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender practices among minors.”
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St. Petersburg introduced laws banning homosexual propaganda aimed at minors earlier this year.
That prompted an international outcry that chided St. Petersburg for its attempts at clouding the issue while maintaining Russia's long-held discrimination against homosexuals.
City officials had originally approved the parade permit, but revoked it at the last minute.
That led Amnesty International to suggest St. Petersburg “portray itself as a global city where tolerance and respect for human rights are held high and where there is no place for discrimination,” Gay Star News reported.
“They have a chance to show that they do respect human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and that they do not discriminate against any members of society,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow director.
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