QueerFest Hampered by Bomb Threats and Cancelled Venues
QueerFest, one of the biggest LGBTQ-events in Russia and supported by Civil Rights Defenders, opened on 18 September in St. Petersburg. Since the start the festival has been plagued by threats, violence and last minute cancellations of contracts for venues.
The contract for the festivals’ main venue was cancelled 1,5 hours before the scheduled opening on 18 September. The reason, given by the owner, was that the integrity of the arch above the entrance was compromised, which could result in a collapse. However, all other events in the building proceeded as planned. Despite this setback the festivals’ volunteers moved the exhibition and equipment to a new venue and the opening took place as scheduled.
Although the opening attracted over 160 participants and was considered a success, people were still harassed and some were physically attacked. To ensure the event ran relatively smoothly the QueerFest’s Security Team had to barricade the main door as a result of a group of anti-gay protestors who showed up and began attacking visitors with a green spray substance and a foul smelling gas. The Police and Human Rights Ombudsman in St. Petersburg were alerted to the event but none of the assailants have yet been detained.
“Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned about the situation. We urge the authorities in St. Petersburg to ensure that the attacks at the opening of the festival are properly investigated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice” said Roemer Lemaître, Acting Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders.
After the opening, numerous venues have continued to be cancelled with different reasons given by various owners.