Between increasingly strident homophobic rhetoric, violent hate crimes [GV], discriminatory firings [GV], and now the newly-passed federal law that makes “propaganda of homosexuality” illegal [ru] (being an administrative infraction, perpetrators of such “propaganda” will be fined, rather than criminally prosecuted), everyone can agree that it is a difficult time to be part of Russia's LGBT community. In fact, these days supporting LGBT rights can earn you a trip to the hospital.
At least this is where Maria Baronova, a blogger and opposition activist, ended up after attending a protest against the “propaganda of homosexuality” law on June 11. Baronova, who recently made a splash on the RuNet [GV] by writing a rather naughty public letter criticizing Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov, is one of the defendants in the May 6 civil disorder case [en] and an old hand at participating in opposition rallies. This one in particular proved to be her downfall.
The protest, which took place in front of the Duma, the Russian house of parliament, turned violent from the start. Photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov, who documented the day's events in a LiveJournal post [ru], tweeted [ru]:
У Думы очередной пиздец. Православные бьют ЛГБТ
Sh*t's f*cked up again near the Duma. The Orthodox are beating up the LGBT.
Journalist Tikhon Dzyadko also reported [ru] that religious anti-LGBT activists were out in force:
Было несколько стычек. “Православные” скандировали “Москва не содом”, “ОМОН, дави пидрил”, “Бей пидарасов”, “Христос Воскресе”, “Слава русскому ОМОНу” и проч. ЛГБТ-активистов закидывали яйцами, крапивой и презервативами с говном.
There were several clashes. The “orthodox” chanted “Moscow isn't Sodom,” “SWAT the f*gs,” “Kill the f*ggots,” “Christ has risen,” “Glory to the Russian SWAT” and so on. LGBT activists had eggs, nettles, and condoms filled with sh*t thrown at them.
Also participating in the pogrom were teenage hooligans, some of them reportedly as young as twelve years old [ru]. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the police and SWAT teams ostensibly there to control the crowd were largely inactive in stopping assaults on protesters.
It appears that Baronova was a victim of one such assault where the perpetrator was allowed to escape. She tweeted [ru] shortly after the incident, describing how the police were in the process of releasing a detained anti-LGBT activist:
Только что из ОВД Тверское вывели человека, сломавшего нос Адику 22 января. Стали заводить за угол. Я пошла за ними. Тоже зашла за угол В этот момент меня обогнал мужчина в рубашке и галстуке ростом 190+ и резко ударил в живот кулаком, сотрудники Полиции в кол-ве человек 5ти Стали удерж.мужчин,которые его пытались задержать.
Just now from the Tverskoe Police Dept. they've led out the man who broke Adik's nose on January 22. They took him behind the [building] corner. I went behind there as well. At this time I was overtaken by a man wearing a dress shirt and tie, 190 cm tall, who abruptly punched me in the stomach with his fist, and the 5 policemen present at the scene tried to restrain the men who were trying to apprehend him.
According to Baronova, the police did not even try to apprehend the man who assaulted her, and to make it worse, they blocked bystanders who tried to do just that. She described [ru] her assailant on twitter (“Very handsome young man, Russian, 185 cm tall or higher, in a lavender shirt, gray slacks and brown shoes.”), but so far no one has identified him. That's not to say there aren't theories — for example, Twitter user @basilla_the1st asked [ru] Baronova if she thought it could have been the “cucumber” that punched her (she doesn't think so), referring to an incident last week, when Baronova spit in the face of a man dressed as a cucumber [ru], who was picketing outside her courtroom and demanding prison sentences.
Self-described journalist and photographer, @willysever, also made reference to the spitting incident, tweeting [ru] cynically:
Ни в жисть не поверю, что г-жа Баронова никому там в глаз не харкнула хотя бы, перед тем, как огрести…
I don't for a second believe that Ms. Baronova didn't, at the very least, spit someone in the eye, before getting jumped…
Baronova was taken to a Moscow hospital for observation, but appears to be doing fine [ru] — she tweeted that no internal organs were damaged, although she is feeling nauseous and has had several spasms. The man who punched her will likely never be found, but Baronova is more concerned [ru] with what her experience says about LGBT rights in Russia. It's nothing good:
Слушайте, обычные активисты и сочувствующие. История с ЛГБТ-протестом совсем другая. Вот совсем. Поведение полиции другое. Агрессия другая Я этого никогда не замечала, но это какая-то абсолютно параллельная реальность, в которой полиция себя ведет иначе.
Listen up, conventional activists and sympathizers. The story with the LGBT protest is completely different [from the regular political protests]. Completely. The police behavior is different. The aggression is different. I never notices this, but it's some kind of utterly parallel reality, where the police behaves completely different.