Russian authorities detained over 67 people at a gay pride rally at St. Petersburg after a clash between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists and anti-gay protestors Saturday.
The rally organized by LGBT rights supporters at the Field of Mars, which had a war memorial in St. Petersburg, turned violent as anti-gay campaigners obstructed the gay activists.
Reports said the public demonstrations in the area can be held without special sanctions, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday. This event marked the National Coming Out Day in support of the people who revealed their sexual preferences.
But anti-gay activists such Cossacks, Orthodox protesters and people affiliated to Russian nationalist organizations arrived at the scene before the LGBT right activities had taken place.
As LGBT activists arrived, many anti-gay protestors began to sing religious songs. They halted LGBT activists from getting into the venue and clashes between the two groups ensued.
As gay rights activists began to raise rainbow flags, the local police intervened. According to a local radio station, at least 15 LGBT activists and 30 anti-gay campaigners were among the 67 people detained.
Since Russia has recently adopted the controversial anti-gay propaganda law banning "non-traditional sexual relationships" in June, the country has seen protests by LGBT activists and international condemnation from gay rights groups and celebrities. Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva has called the new law "a step toward the Middle Ages."
Following passage of the law, 24-year-old gay activist Dmitry Isakov was the first person convicted under the new anti-propaganda law. The police arrested him, aided by his parents, when he stood in a one-man protest in Kazan on July 30. When arrested he was holding a sign that read, "Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!"
International rights groups have called anti-gay sanctions by the government as post-Soviet era's worst human rights climate. Some Western celebrities and activists have called for the boycott of all Russian products with some even demanding boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, unless they are relocated from Russia.
Although proponents of the vague law said it is aimed at protecting children, LGBT supporters viewed the legislation as an attempt to crackdown Russia's gay community.
In a similar rally in late June, LGBT activities were beaten by anti-gay activists and over 50 LGBT rallyists were arrested.