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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Eggs and punches at Russia gay march
By Mike Levy
in Moscow

Gay rights activists waving rainbow flags
The march started off peacefully
A gay rights demonstration in Moscow degenerated into violence for the second year running as right-wing and orthodox extremists attacked gay rights activists and supporters of the unauthorised demonstration.

GayRussia leader Nikolai Alexeyev was bundled into a police van and driven away moments after arriving outside the offices of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who has called homosexuals "satanic".

Mr Alexeyev was attempting to deliver a petition signed by more than 50 MEPs urging Mr Luzhkov to allow such events.

British veteran gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was punched in the face by an anti-gay rights protester.

After receiving the blow, he leaned on a lamppost and shouted: "Someone protect me, Someone protect me," before being roughly escorted away by riot police.

His attacker was not detained.


The pop group Right Said Fred, in Moscow for a concert, turned up at the protest.

Band member Richard Fairbrass was hit on the nose and ran away with blood on his face.

Italian MEP Marco Cappato being arrested
Where are the police? Why aren't you protecting us?
Marco Cappato
Italian MEP
Russian pop duo t.A.T.u also appeared briefly to show support.

"What we have is authoritarianism and we are moving towards totalitarianism," said Lydia Hmelevskaya, a 24-year-old lesbian.

"I have been beaten up on a train because of the way I look. I have the right to look the way I want to."

Nationalists pelted German MP Volker Beck with eggs and tomatoes before officers took him to a waiting police van.

He was driven away to a government building, then later released.

Italian MEP Marco Cappato intervened to stop a Strasbourg parliamentary aide being attacked.

"Where are the police? Why aren't you protecting us?" Mr Cappato shouted as nationalists gathered nearby, prompting officers to take the MEP away and drive him to a police station.

Rainbow banner

The demonstration began peacefully with dozens of journalists and scores of uniformed officers and Omon riot police congregating near a statue opposite Mayor Luzhkov's offices on Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow's busiest thoroughfares.

Orthodox extremists and nationalists arrived to speak to journalists and denounce the event.

Nationalist about to punch gay rights activists Peter Tatchell
British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was punched in the face
Some chanted "Moscow is not Sodom" and "No to pederasty."

Violence erupted after police detained Mr Alexeyev.

As Mr Beck was marched away, someone briefly unfurled a rainbow-coloured banner - adopted by gay rights groups as a symbol of pride.

One extremist began punching the person holding the banner.

The police broke up the scuffle but allowed the attacker to walk away.

On numerous occasions, nationalists circled gay rights activists as they spoke with journalists, then reached in to punch or kick the person being interviewed.

One journalist was attacked because he wore an earring, which led nationalists to say he was gay.

Police intervened to arrest dozens of gay rights activists and only rarely detained their attackers.

Mayor Luzhkov's office says it banned this year's gay pride march.

But Mr Alexeyev claims the order is invalid because the letter he received from Moscow officials refers to the wrong date - 27 May 2006 instead of 2007.

Last year's march was banned and also saw gay activists and supporters attacked by nationalists.

Mr Alexeyev is seeking to appeal against the 2006 ban in the European Court of Human Rights.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell is attacked

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