Odessa Pride: Ukranian City Holds First LGBTQ March Amid Nationalist Threat
The first LGBTQ Pride march in the Ukrainian city of Odessa was held on Saturday, after officials initially banned the event, bringing out over 50 community members who marched with rainbow flags and signs and chanted, “Everyone’s different, everyone’s equal.”
“Today you are making history,” Zoryan Kis, an LGBTQ activist and one of the organizers of Kiev Pride, told the crowd. Kis said Odessa Pride would have been impossible just one year ago. In fact, a march had been planned in Odessa but had been cancelled over security concerns.
The event had been cancelled the day before, with local authorities citing safety concerns as far right activists were planning to gather there as well. Organizers told NBC Out that this is a popular tactic to cancel public events in the city.
The marchers were protected by 700 police officers, reports Transitions Online. The march was held in a different location – near the historic Potemkin Stairs – than originally planned to help ensure it could take place.
“We know that there is a threat from small extremist groups that operate in Odessa,” Anna Leonova, an organizer of Odessa Pride, told NBC OUT. “But I don’t believe that in our city there are forces that…may constitute a danger for us.”
A group of white nationalist youth tried to break through the police barrier to attack the marchers, but they were stopped. 20 of them were detained by police, but allowed to go free after two hours of conversation at the police station.
According to Dumskaya, a local news site, the attackers introduced themselves as members of the organization “Sokol” (“Falcon”), whose self-description is “a public organization for athletic-nationalistic youth, [which] is not indifferent to the fate of the white race and the national idea.”
“Guys are shedding blood there [in eastern Ukraine where the conflict with Russia continues], but you protect gays,” one of them said while clashing with police.
“First separatists took your town, now gays. Who is next?” one of the nationalists is seen saying in the video below.
Most of those trying to disrupt the march were members of the local football club, who hold right-wing views, NBC Out reports. Some were also involved in massive clashes that took place in the city two years ago between pro-Russian supporters and Ukrainian government supporters, which resulted in a fire that left dozens dead.
In response, a march “in support of traditional values” was also held in Odessa on Sunday, with more than 100 participants. Activists, as well as representatives of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were present.
“We will not allow [pro-gay] propaganda,” an organizer said.
Watch video footage of the march, as well as the police handing the nationalists, below.