Kiev Pride: A Success Despite Attacks

Despite an apparent firecracker-nail attack which critically injured a policeman, brave marchers took part in Kiev’s first LGBT Pride parade today since the revolution.

Volodymyr Shuvayev/AFP/Getty

The second Gay Pride in Ukraine’s history, and the first since the revolution, was held today in the capital, Kiev.

The event was attacked twice by masked men (far right extremists, according to some); one policeman is in critical condition and undergoing surgery and 10 LGBT people sustained minor injuries.

The lead up to Ukraine’s second Pride parade was dramatic and exposed divisions both within the local activist movement and within Ukraine’s political leaders.

While local gay activists argued about strategy, Ukraine’s politicians were split along national versus international lines.

Mayor Klitschko of Kiev, likely considering his local constituency (some polls say as many as 80 percent of Ukrainians are against LGBT rights initially stated he would not provide police support for the parade, while some of Ukraine’s most prominent national leaders – President Poroshenko and three MPs who fought on the maidan – expressed solidarity with the LGBT community and said the march reflected European values.

The parade was held in the suburban Kiev neighborhood known as Obolon Embankment and witnesses say there were between 250-300 in the march with around 1,500 police there for protection.

Within the first few minutes, the rally was attacked: according to local Ukrainian journalist Natalya Gumenyuk, the initial attack included firecrackers apparently packed with nails – it was likely those nails that caused the neck wounds of a policeman now in surgery.

Tanya Mazur, a local Ukrainian who watched the march as a representative of Amnesty International, told me over the phone: “The Marsh Rivnosti or March of Equality was immediately attacked by people in masks. The police were very professional and protected the march but unfortunately one policeman is in critical condition and undergoing surgery at the hospital.

“Once the early attackers were detained the march was peaceful, until the end when there was some disorganization and far rights attacked and about 10 LGBT people were mildly injured. But the march was a success, much larger than the first one two years ago when about 50 people were present.”

Bogdan Globa, a Ukrainian gay activist, posted this photo and asked on Facebook “what chapter of the Bible is this from?”

Svitlana Zalishchuk – a member of Parliament who said she was on the Euromaidan from day one, and attended today’s Equality March—spoke briefly on the phone.

“We had around 200 activists and many police, can’t calculate, the place was a secret from the very beginning but the secret was out somehow – the secret was on account of threats by Pravy Sector (Right Sector). Police worked very well and managed to not allow in the attackers but one officer was badly wounded but will be fine. Other police were apparently attacked after the rally.”

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“We had a lot of journalists and leaders of civil society, MPs including me, members of international embassies, it was very well-represented,” she said. “There are many debates, and they aren’t smooth, but it’s a natural development and I was encouraged by a French politician who said the first Pride in France was similar.”

The attacks at the end of the march were documented on video here on Facebook, with one local resident shouting at the attackers to go home.

Elsewhere on Twitter:

Swedish ambassador at #KyivPride

First ever MPs to attend #KyivPride

Blood on the pavement after the initial attack

Attackers being led away from #KyivPride

The consensus of attendees seems to be that the rally was a success and a huge improvement on the first Pride event two years before.

In addition to support from three MPs and Ukraine’s President, well-known photographer and director Olga Navrotska wrote on Facebook that “everyone has the right to be themselves, except murderers and Putin—I believe that the LGBT parade is cool.”

The response from the Ukrainian Orthodox church was far different from 2013, while some accounts report that at the first Pride there were Orthodox men on the sidelines ready to attack with leather whips, this year the Bishop Clement of the Ukrainian Orthodox church made a statement, saying “Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not support the March of Equality and condemns, but calls not to use force against the protesters.

Sergey Leschenko, one of the supportive MPs, took part in the march and expressed on Facebook that the rally was a success and that he hoped next year it would take place not in suburban Obolon Embankment but on Kiev’s main street, Khreshchatyk.

Also, on Twitter, this

There is already an attempt by LGBT activists to raise money for the injured police.