A LGBT activist at the April 7 protest in
St Petersburg (Pic: Maria Kozlovskaya)

Seventeen gay activists have been arrested in St. Petersburg, during a May Day event, under the city’s controversial new gay-propaganda law.

The LGBT activists, from the organisation Coming Out, were reported to have been carrying rainbow flags as part of a May 1st civil rights and freedom march on Nevsky Avenue, the city’s main street.

They were participating as part of a larger group consisting of various St. Petersburg democratic and civil society entities.

Five minutes into the march, police demanded that the rainbow flags be removed. When the activists refused, they were forcefully detained and are now facing charges of “propaganda of homosexuality” and non-compliance with the police. One activist was also detained for holding a sign that read: “homophobia is illegal.”

The activists face fines under the new law, which went into effect at the end of March. It bans “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, and paedophilia” to minors.

On April 7th, two activists were the first to be arrested under the law for holding signs that proclaimed “no to silencing of hate crimes against gays and lesbians” and “our family friend is a lesbian, her family is socially equal to ours”.

One activist was found guilty of non-compliance with police, but the propaganda charge was ignored by the court.

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