Mass Arrests at a Moscow Gay Rights March

Police arrested 40 at the march in Moscow, including some who attacked demonstrators

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Reports are sketchy about the arrest of 40 people at a Moscow gay rights march on Saturday, but it seems that some of those detained were not marching for the rights of same-sex couples, but attacking those who were. During the march, "several men were seen trying to pelt the protesters with tomatoes and unfurling posters with pejorative remarks about homosexuality," the Associated Press reported. (Note tomatoes in the photo above.)

The AP also said that the march had been sanctioned by authorities, a rare case in Russia, where laws against such demonstrations are strict and getting stricter.

The English-language broadcast network RT reported just last week that the region of Arkhangelsk, near the White Sea, was considering a law that would outlaw "all events promoting homosexuality, among them Gay Pride marches." The ban has strong support from officials of the Russian Orthodox Church, where a spokesman did not mince words about the organization's disdain for gay people.

“All priests know that the souls of those who suffered through sinful homosexual experience are empty and desperate,”said Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Russian Orthodox Church PR department. “And it is this insecurity in a minute-long pleasure that forces these spiritually unhealthy people to hold marches and other public demonstrations.”

Alleged emptiness and desperation notwithstanding, bans on activism in support of gay rights are starting to cost the government a sizable amount of money, and have not damaged the resolve of the activists themselves:

In July 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decision to repeatedly ban Gay Pride parades in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was unlawful. Russia has paid €30,000 in compensation to gay activists. Still, the parades are being banned due to the “negative response they provoke among Russians.”

Russian gay rights activists, in response, have planned their demonstrations for the next hundred years – they have submitted their requests “to help mass cultural and educational activities from 2012 to 2112.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.