As a gay street artist living in the United Kingdom, Chris Fleming said it was difficult for him to imagine the extent of the anti-gay sentiment in Russia. Therefore, Fleming—also known by the tag name ID4a—spoke out against the indecencies being committed against Russia’s LGBT community in the best way he knew how: he painted a mural.
A striking display right in the heart of the bustling Newcastle city center, the mural depicts a uniformed man pushing a gay man to the ground; the latter’s hands are bound behind his back, his limbs entangled in the five Olympic rings. In the negative space that surrounds them, the same paragraph is printed over and over again: “Sport does not discriminate on ground of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.”
Since the introduction of Putin’s anti-propaganda laws in June, homophobia has increased considerably, both in Russia’s government and amongst its people. At the beginning of February, Russian news programs covered stories about LGBT people being hunted in the street. And while many people around the world are fighting for the rights of LGBT Russians at the moment, Fleming worries that those efforts might start to dwindle once the Winter Olympics have ended in Sochi.
“I understand that things are only getting worse in Russia and people are going into hiding. I dread to think how much worse it will get once the media spotlight leaves Sochi and the Olympics.”
He added, “I only hope that we do not forget what is happening after the games are over. The state-sanctioned persecution is a march back towards fascism, but I am hopeful that things will get better.”
Fleming, who has the freedom to live as an openly gay man in the UK, told the press that his new mural was created in order to demonstrate his solidarity and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Russians.
“If this piece lets one man or woman in Russia know that we are behind them and it’s okay to be who you are, then it will do its purpose,” said Fleming. “I have chosen to paint this in the heart of the Newcastle gay scene as a reminder of what can happen when hate goes too far, and a reminder of how lucky we are to live here.”
The mural is located on Scotswood Road, near the Pink Triangle—a rapidly expanding neighborhood of gay bars, clubs, and culture.