Antigay protesters shouting “kill, kill, kill” forced the shutdown of an LGBT event in Ukraine Saturday, London’s Guardian reports.
About 70 participants had gathered for an LGBT festival at a hotel in Lviv, a city known for tourist attractions. The festival included films, literary discussions, and other sessions.
When about 200 far-right protesters surrounded the hotel, organizers called police, who took an hour to arrive, according to the Guardian. Also, someone reportedly threatened to bomb the hotel. The festival attendees were eventually evacuated by bus, while the demonstrators yelled “kill, kill, kill” at them. Some of the protesters also threw stones and firecrackers at the buses, Ukraine Today reports, but no one was arrested. Watch a Ukraine Today video report here.
The organizers had had difficulty finding a venue for the festival, as it did not have official approval from the city government, and police said they could not guarantee attendees’ safety. Earlier in the week, “the hotel we had booked for people coming from outside Lviv told us we could not stay there,” one of the organizers, Olena Shevchenko, told the Guardian. “When we arrived, the administrator told us the city authorities had told them we were perverts, they had Googled us, and said people like us should burn in hell.” The festival moved to a different hotel, the Dniester, which became the site of Saturday’s protest.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy blamed the LGBT organizers and festival-goers partly for the conflict. “Yesterday’s events in Lviv are a result of a carefully planned provocation,” he wrote on Facebook Sunday. “Participants from both sides were conscious or unconscious parts of the whole picture.”
Some other politicians, however, were supportive of the LGBT group. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, condemned the slow police response in a Facebook post. “The authorities should always react when people’s rights are infringed upon,” Nayyem wrote. “It doesn’t matter whose rights it is — LGBT people, the opposition, patriots, migrants, women, the elderly or children.”
Media activist and LGBT rights advocate Maxim Eristavi said there was some good in the response to the incident. “On the one hand, it’s a very dangerous precedent when it seems like the authorities are encouraging the violent rhetoric of elements of civil society,” Eristavi told the Guardian. “On the other hand, there have been so many statements of support from officials and ministers, which is something that would have been unthinkable two years ago.”
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin was one of those denouncing the attack. and he said police are investigating it, Ukraine Today reports. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and Canada's ambassador to the nation, Roman Waschuk, joined in the condemnation as well.
Tolerance & non-discrimination make Ukraine stronger. I condemn attack on #LGBTI activists in Lviv. Police is investigating the case.
— Pavlo Klimkin (@PavloKlimkin) March 19, 2016
[1/2] Bad news that Lviv Equality Festival was unable to proceed due to violent counter protests
— Geoffrey Pyatt (@GeoffPyatt) March 20, 2016
— Roman Waschuk (@WaschukCanUA) March 19, 2016