Kiev, Ukraine – More than a thousand people marched in the first gay rights parade without violence incidents and with police protection in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The gay rights groups received, however, multiple threats from far-right organizations.
The people marched and celebrated the parade without being chased or attacked by other groups that do not support the movement for equality in the country. About 5,000 police officials were on duty protecting and cordoning the 1,500 people in the event while avoiding any tragic incidents among the civilians, as reported by Reuters.
“The road to equality in Ukraine is difficult as well as dangerous,” Bohdan Hloba, one of the rally’s organizers, said. “We have been threatened with a ‘bloodbath’ but every step of this march gives us hope.”
Participants and activists shouted pro-equality slogans while carrying different types of rainbow-colored objects. Also, each person presented their way of protests or support by being draped in rainbow or the European Union flags or just wearing some national dress.
Although no violence was reported at the time of the parade, a participant was beaten in the downtown area an hour or so afterward, event organizers and the police stated. Last year members of the far-right attacked and injured about 300 participants in the same event, according to a report from the New York Times.
Police have increased their support for the LGBT community since a pro-Western government took power in the 2014 Maidan protests, although some critics still assure that the support has not been fully granted as some homophobic attitudes remain widespread.
A blood bath
Different groups stated their opposition to the gay parade taking place in the country. Some said that this was against the national efforts and that the behavior was against the Ukrainian people.
“In short, it will be a bloody mess on June 12 in Kiev,” Artem Skoropadsky, a spokesman for one of the groups, the Right Sector, wrote in a joint statement referring to the event scheduled with another group called the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
However, there were some different responses to this type of statements, such as one from Daniel Kovzhun, a participant in the pro-democracy protests in Maidan Square in 2004 and 2014, who responded to Skoropadsky’s statement.
“I stood up during two Maidans because I did not want anybody to tell me how I should live,” Kovzhun wrote. “I was at war to defend my family, my children, my home and my freedom, and my children will be free to decide how they should live, with whom to sleep and what to believe.” His family had posed for an advertising campaign in support of KyivPride, the official name of the Ukraninan gay rights parade.
‘In collision with the authorities’
Ukrainian police took some significant measures to ensure the security in the event, besides cordoning the area, police also closed nine streets and one subway station to prevent any clashes that could endanger the civilians security.
Entering the area was not possible without a thorough search by the police officials. After the event, which lasted not more than half an hour, the police evacuated the participants by buses and through a subway station that was exclusively open for that purpose.
According to Khatia Dekanoidze, the head of the National Police, there were 57 people detained. During the event, young men could be seen loitering around some of the blocked areas, and as the march ended, the police blocked a column of people in black ski masks moving toward the parade.
“I am against the gay propaganda that these sick people have organized here in collusion with authorities,” said Serhiy Hashchenko, a 56-year-old father of 12 who went to the march carrying a placard “Ukraine is no Sodom”, as reported by the Washington Post.
The authorities committed a crime by allowing this movement to take place, commented nationalist leader Mykola Kokhanivsky. He assured that their gay activist’s behavior is a crime against the regular Ukrainian citizen.
The event had some significant LGBT supporters, such as Lt. Nadiya V. Shevchenko, Ukraine’s first female combat pilot, and Judith Gough, the UK Ambassador to Ukraine. They both shared some thoughts about the current equality situation in Ukraine.
Lt. Savchenko, who was freed in a prisoners exchange with Russia last month, shared some thoughts in support of the parade. She said her country needed no more blood in the streets.
Gough, who is openly lesbian and participated in the march, argued that the gay rights in Ukraine should be seen in a broader context. When people took the Maidan two years ago, they were fighting for European values.
According to Gough, an important part of a post-Maidan Ukraine is tolerance and protection of the rights of the individual, and on a personal level, she said, she has found most Ukrainians to be welcoming.
Ukraine’s parliament passed legislation last year that banned discrimination against gay people in the workplace, as part of a series of laws that the country needed to qualify for an EU visa-free travel agreement. But at the time of the vote, the speaker of the parliament Volodymyr Groysman, who is currently Prime Minister, assured to doubters that the country would never support gay marriage.
Source: The New York Times