6 Gay Bar Raids That Reveal The Journey Ahead for LGBTs Abroad
BY Thom Senzee
August 11 2014 5:00 AM ET
Police in Victoria, Australia may have recently apologized for an infamous and illegal gay bar raid in 1994, but unwarranted and homophobic raids on bars and establishments serving predominately LGBT clienteles continue to happen in countries around the world.
America's then-burgeoning gay liberation movement kicked into high gear after a particularly egregious police raid on a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. At The Stonewall Inn, police bullied, beat, arrested and humiliated LGBT people who had only come to the bar to enjoy drinks in each other's company. It was not the first time in America where LGBT communities became active against such brutality, but "Stonewall" has become shorthand for the moment in June 1969 when LGBT people fought back.
As LGBT equality gains ground in the U.S., visibility in some other countries is only beginning to take hold, including in more oppressive regions. Several recent raids of LGBT establishments around the world beg the question, might history be repeating itself in countries like Kenya, Ukraine and Lebanon?
2014: Club Envy, Nairobi
In early July, 60 people were arrested at Club Envy in Nairobi, Kenya for "suspected homosexuality."
Although generally considered safer than neighboring Uganda (which until a court overturned it last week, had a punishing antigay law that has pushed hundreds of LGBT refugees into Kenya), the latter African nation has a remnant colonial-era law against "buggery." Kenya's buggery law criminalizes sexual activity between people of the same sex. As recently as 2010, Raila Odinga, then Kenya's prime minister, called for the arrest of "all gays." Odinga later rescinded that call.
2014: Pomada Club, Kiev, Ukraine
Though not a police action, it was a violent raid when a group of roughly 20 neo-Nazis tried to force their way into a gay club in Kiev, Ukraine, on a Monday evening last month. Security camera footage obtained by U.K. LGBT site Pink News caught the attack on video.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs told Pink News at the time that assailants threw a smoke bomb and firecrackers into the Pomada Club. In the video, some of the skinheads, adorned with neo-Nazi tattoos like the Celtic cross and wearing masks, appeared to be rubbing their eyes as they huddled around the door just outside the bar. While a group of patrons hurried into the club at the beginning of the video, presumably seeing the attackers approach from off-camera, Pink News noted that one patron was unable to get inside and took off running, with one of the skinheads in pursuit.