By DMITRY LOVETSKY
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Russian police on Saturday detained 14 gay rights activists trying to hold an unsanctioned demonstration in St. Petersburg, as well as one person suspected of attacking the protesters.
Police detained two groups of activists protesting their lack of rights in two central districts of the city. An Associated Press photographer saw unidentified individuals attack the demonstrators, trying to seize their banners before police moved in.
Attempts to hold Gay Pride rallies almost always end in violence in Russia. Authorities habitually refuse gay rights activists their constitutional right to assemble, particularly in Moscow, on the grounds that other people find it offensive.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in six years of holding such events in Moscow, but I’ve never seen such cynicism in St. Petersburg,” said Nikolai Alekseyev, Russia’s highest profile gay rights activist, who was himself briefly detained.
Activists held their protest beside a monument to city founder Peter the Great, “because Peter the Great founded a city with European values,” Yuri Gavrikov, head of the Equality group said Friday. President Dmitry Medvedev has insisted Russians share European values today.
AP writer Irina Titova contributed to this report.