By Brett Edward Stout
Originally published on Advocate.com May 04 2012 1:27 PM ET
Nikolai Alexeyev, a prominent gay activist in Russia, has become the first person fined for the new crime of spreading gay “propaganda,” the Associated Press reports.
A Russian court fined Alexeyev $170 for violating the new law. He said he plans to appeal. The judge in the case has not yet presented the grounds for the decision but expects to release the information next week.
Last week, a case involving Sergey Kondrashov, who was arrested for the same reason, had a very different outcome. In that case, Kondrashov, who is heterosexual and himself a lawyer, was charged only with disobeying police orders. The judge left the more serious charge of gay “propaganda” unaddressed, sighting lack of evidence. Even though the outcome was largely favorable for Kondrashov, he is appealing because of what he deems faulty logic. If the initial action the police confronted him on was not a crime, he reasons, then any order he would have disobeyed would not have been a legal police order.
A third case was also settled today in St Petersburg court. The ruling on Igor Kochetkov had been delayed because the arresting officer failed to appear to give testimony, but today the court dismissed his arrest for gay “propaganda” as well. On Facebook, Kochetkov wrote, “You’re gonna laugh, but I’ve been acquitted. They dismissed the charge due to a lack of evidence to support the offense. It’s funny because a couple weeks ago another guy was also arrested (Sergey Kondrashov) on the same day (April 7th) at the same place for the same crime (picketing with a pro-gay sign) by the same policeman and the same judge also threw out his ridiculous arrest. Sergey ended up being found guilty of the same violation I was – disobeying a police order.”
Conflict has been escalating in Russia’s second largest city. In St. Petersburg, 17 were arrested during protests on May 1 for displaying rainbow flags, suspenders, and pins. Video was posted online of protestors outside the iconic Cathedral of the Blood of the Christ. The protestors sang folk songs about peace. And underneath a large flag that read “solidarity,” they chanted “embarrassment!” when the arrests began. Other voices can be heard saying to police "look at yourselves!" and "why are you arresting us?"
President Medvedev's name means bear in Russian and so, symbolically, a bear was tied to balloons and released it into the air. Watch the videos below.