LGBT rights activists celebrated as the annual QueerFest festival in St. Petersburg got under way without harassment.
In fact, police repeatedly contacted the festival’s organizers to make sure there would be no trouble.
The Russian LGBT rights group Coming Out reported:
The ninth Russian pride festival QueerFest opened on a high note as 200 guests were greeted by the festival’s longtime partners and supporters, representatives of diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg, activists, curators, and the organizers.
Present were also representatives of the office of the St. Petersburg ombudsman for human rights and members of civil society organizations and art institutes.
Guests enjoyed the photo exhibition “Where Love Is Illegal” by Robin Hammond, mingled, shared impressions, and danced.
The festival is taking place in a beautiful and spacious art space, and the exhibition is open to hundreds of visitors every week.
For the second year in a row, QueerFest’s opening reception met with no impediments: no provocations, harassment by homophobes, or bomb threats. Far from attempting to interfere by pressuring the venues, the police contacted the organizers three times prior to the festival to discuss how best to provide safety.
This feeling of safety, whether destined to be temporary or long-lived, provides LGBT people with a boost of interest and confidence, with this year’s festival receiving more attention than the previous.
“Lack of trouble has the effect of attracting large numbers of visitors: people who are far from activism, who are not ready to risk their physical or emotional safety, or who are just apprehensive to be open in a public venue,” says Polina Andrianova, leader of the LGBT group Coming Out. “Partners from the wider society, such as venues, professionals, artists, are more willing to collaborate. We are looking forward to reaching new audiences.”
More information about QueerFest (in Russian) is available on Facebook.