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Chicago Activist Arrested in Moscow Gay Rights Demonstration

By Anthonia Akitunde in News on May 17, 2009 6:45PM

A Chicago activist was arrested along with a large group of other protesters in Moscow on Saturday during a gay rights demonstration near Moscow State University. “If...the right to assemble is taken away from lesbian and gay people here in Russia, then other Russians have to fear for their own freedom,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network here in Chicago, before police detained him according to a Tribune report. A spokesman for the Moscow police said 40 people were seized, but media reports put the number at 80.

Gay rights activist were drawn to Moscow as the site of an international pop music competition, Eurovision, Saturday night. Activists hoped to use the global popularity of the show to highlight widespread homophobia in Russia. City authorities had banned the protest. While Russia officially ended years of persecution by decriminalizing homosexuality in 1993, attempts to secure gay rights have been stymied.

Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov has reportedly called homosexuality “satanic” and justified official homophobic persecution by citing gays as responsible for the spread of AIDS. [Tribune]