On Wednesday, February 5, two activists with the Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality were arrested after a demonstration at the Olympic countdown clock in St. Petersburg. Reportedly, the activists held signs and banners that made a comparison between this year’s games and the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
The activists held signs and banners ornamented with pink triangles and phrases like, “Berlin 1936 = Sochi 2014.” Originally, the demonstration was to be held inside the St. Petersburg Metro; however, at approximately 8:00 pm, it was relocated to the Olympic clock after police intervened.
Alliance activists Natalia Tsymbalova and Mikhail Gerasimov were the two activists arrested for staging pickets and holding banners. The demonstration drew strong parallels to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, held during the rule of Adolf Hitler, and the anti-LGBT environment of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
In Russia, the discussions of homosexuality or any “gay propaganda” have been outlawed since June 2013. Since then, homophobia and reports of hate crimes have been on the rise.
A press release from the Alliance reads, “President Putin has managed to convince the [International Olympic Committee] that in Sochi athletes would not be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation. However, the whole world knows that the Russian government is following undisguised homophobic policies…LGBT people are being denied the right to freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to protection of their human dignity. Putin has offered assurances that there will be no discrimination at the Olympics. But once the Olympics are over and the athletes have left Russia, what will be the plight of Russian LGBT people then? There will be the same, or even stronger, homophobia by politicians, legislators, state-owned media and neo-Nazi groups.”
The Straight Alliance concluded its statement by asking activists and allies worldwide to take action against the injustices LGBT Russians are being subjected to under Putin’s administration:
“On the eve of the Sochi Olympiad, LGBT activists both in Russia and around the world call on all Olympic athletes, sponsors, and Olympic guests to utilize their opportunities to issue statement in support of equality for LGBT people, to come out against homophobia and intolerance, and to lobby for the repeal of discriminatory anti-gay laws in Russia.”