In a stunning show of poise, purpose, and power, organizers of the International Queer Culture Festival made the event — also known as QueerFest — a reality in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday even as thugs and public figures tried to stop them.
According to GLAAD, and a report from one of the organizers of St. Petersburg QueerFest, Vitaly Milonov, the infamous anti-LGBT member of the city's legislative assembly (and proponent of Russia's so called anti-homosexuality propaganda law) had to be barricaded from entering by event as did other bigoted hooligans.
Nevertheless, the homobphobes allegedly assaulted guests by spraying them with a green, noxious substance, by pushing guests, and in at least one case, by rying to pull a festivalgoer by the legs out of the event while fellow QueerFest attendees kept their friend away from the thugs by pulling back the victim by the arms.
Meanwhile, reports GLAAD, "...representatives of human rights organizations and European and the U.S. diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg spoke of the importance of respect for human rights and non-violence."
QueerFest is the second LGBT-themed event to have some level of success in St. Petersburg recently. In fact, St. Petersburg Pride went off last month without a single act of violence. However, LGBT activists in Russia continue to fight against oppression in a country that has been less hospitable for gender and sexual minorities since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“We feel exhausted and exhilarated," said Polina Andrianova, one of the festival organizers, in a statement. "Thanks to the work of forty volunteers, partners, and random kindness by strangers and by passers, our event was a success."
QueerFest organizers credited police, human rights advocates (including the city's human rights ombudsman), foreign diplomatic corps members, and well-wishing passersby with supporting their efforts to persevere in the face of intimation, physical assaults, day-of cancelled venue rental contracts.
The second venue reportedly cancelled its agreement to rent space to QueerFest after the event had already been going on there with relative success; it had only been arranged that day because the first venue refused to honor their rental agreement.
Yet, Adrianova and her fellow organizers remain confident and optimistic about the future for LGBT people in St. Petersburg and Russia, moreover.
"People, their rights, but also their light and kindness, is what our festival is all about," her statement continued. "And there are more of them around us every day. That is why we will prevail.”