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Being gay is not supposed to be a crime in Russia. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993; six years later, the law that sent gays and lesbians to psychiatric wards was annulled. But Russia would still rather have its homosexual citizenry invisible — and silent. Nikolai Alexeyev knows that very well. He's just been released from jail for trying to organize a gay-rights demonstration in Moscow.
At the same time, an anti-gay demonstration sanctioned by Moscow's government was taking place near a metro station in the central part of the Russian capital. Protesters held up signs saying, "Moscow is not Sodom." Vladimir Terechenko, a refrigerator repairman, said he tells his sons repeatedly that if they come out as homosexuals he will kill them. "Homosexuality is the end of civilization. They are pale, they are sickly, and they smell," he said. He echoes the opinions of Luzhkov, who has said homosexuality is a disease that needs to be treated, has called gays satanic and has vowed that there will never be a gay parade in Moscow. Despite the violent beliefs and the hateful messages of the anti-gay protesters, they were left untouched by Russian riot police, who sat meekly in their vans during the demonstration.
Not so at Alexeyev's march. There, an estimated 30 protesters unwrapped rainbow banners and chanted for less than half a minute before Moscow riot police rounded up and arrested everyone involved. Alexeyev, who came to the parade accompanied by a man in a bride's dress, was swiftly carried off by riot police. One woman, who was surrounded by cameras, was grabbed by riot police as she was giving interviews, her shirt torn on the way to the police bus. Peter Tatchell, a British gay-rights activist, flew to Moscow for the event. He was speaking to reporters before he too was arrested. "This shows Russian people are not free," he told reporters.
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