Russian gay rights activists arrested at polling station in Moscow
*Nikolai Alexeyev, gay rights activist and Moscow Gay Pride organiser, shows his spoiled voting paper minutes before being arrested. It reads: "No to homophobes. No to Luzhkov." Photo via GayRussia.ru
Nikolai Alekseyev and 12 fellow gay rights activists have been arrested this morning at 10am in Moscow while they attempted to vote at the "District Electoral Commission N° 165". They came to the place at 9.30 am. Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow who banned the last two Gay Prides (calling them "Satanic"), was planning to vote in the same place later in the day. Representatives of Gayrussia.ru reported that the police ‘suddenly broke into the place and took all the activists who were quietly voting.’ Reportedly, some 5 police busses could be seen around the voting place which usually serves as a school. However, Lenta.ru reported that Nikolai Alekseyev was arrested when he wrote ‘No to homophobes. No to Luzhkov’ on his ballot paper and started to demonstrate the bulletin to journalists (see photo above). In Putin’s ‘guided democracy,’ spoiling the ballot papers is a silent form of protest by many: opposition leader Garry Kasparov has been reported writing ‘Another Russia’ over his ballot paper.
The activists were detained at the Tverskoy police station. They were charged for attempting to conduct an "illegal gathering". Those charged for taking part in an "illegal gathering" are due to appear in court on Monday at 10am (Moscow time).
Two weeks ago, a group of Russian gays and lesbians called for the LGBT community to vote in the election and to write on the ballot paper “No to homophobes” as a protest to the lack of human rights in the country for their community. They claimed that no political party took the LGBT issues into consideration and therefore they did not want to support anyone.
“We were trying to vote,” said Moscow Gay Pride organiser Nikolai Alexeyev, speaking from the police station where he was detained. “Men from the special services pushed us outside the polling station, put us in a bus and drove us to a police station.” There was no direct protest, Alexeyev said. It was simply a matter of “spoiling” their ballot papers by writing “No to Homophobes” across the paper.
Those arrested were detained for more than three hours at the Tverskoy police station in central Moscow, about 100 metres from City Hall and less the five minutes walk from Red Square. For hours, they were not given a reason for their detention.
An official from the Prosecution Department visited the Tverskoy police station in the afternoon. He immediately ordered that those still detained to be released, indicating the maximum time permitted for detention in such cases was three hours, Alexeyev said by telephone. He called intervention from the Prosecution Department against police actions "sensational".
Nikolai Alexeyev expressed hope that the journalists in the polling station where activists were arrested can testify that they did not conduct any demonstration, but simply "about 20 of them voted at the same time." A number of media representatives were at that pollig station waiting for the Mayor of Luzhkov who was due to vote shortly after the LGBT activists.