Several police officers and participants were injured, including one officer who suffered serious wounds after being attacked with fireworks and nail bombs.
More than 20 extremists were arrested on suspicion of violence. Others escaped, including one man who shouted “they should die!” in reference to homosexuals.
Many attackers identified themselves as part of the militant Pravy (Right) Sector. Its leader, member of parliament Dmytro Yarosh, also fields a semi-autonomous battalion in the Ukrainian army. Yarosh, in a long Facebook post on June 4, condemned equal rights for gays and pledged to stop the gathering.
At least two other members of Parliament, Svitlana Zalishchuk and Serhiy Leshchenko, attended the march along with the Swedish ambassador to Ukraine, Andreas von Beckerath, and other Western diplomats.
Zalishchuk said that some of the extremists charged the crowd of marching activists, but were blocked by cordons of police that easily numbered several hundred officers to provide security. She praised the fast police response and witnessed some of the violence.
“One of policemen was almost killed,” Zalishchuk said. “He was wounded very severely in the neck.”
Zalishchuk said that the march and the accompanying violence show that Ukraine still has work to do in accepting gay rights.
While Ukraine has “made great progress in the path of tolerance, which is the core of our European path,” it’s clear to her that only a minority of Ukrainians support equal rights for homosexuals. “It’s definitely a minority, not a majority,” she said, based on public comments in social networks and in conversations.
She said that she has no plans to ask colleagues in Parliament to hold public hearings that would investigate, separately from the police criminal investigation, whether Right Sector instigated the violence.
“I don’t know whether they were all part of Praviy Sector,”Zalishchuk said. “They wrote that they were against it…I don’t know if the instigators themselves were from Pravy Sector.”
She said that the “consequences should be just” against those who committed violence and that, if Yarosh was behind the attacks, “this is unacceptable.”
Participants in the gay pride parade got off to a peaceful start on June 6, but chaos and panic quickly followed as militantly anti-gay extremists attacked the crowd and protecting police.
The march got off to a peaceful start, but for security reasons, the location remained a secret until two hours before its scheduled 11 a.m. start.
“Ukraine is Europe! We are Europe!We share European values!” activists chanted as they marched along the Dnipro River in Kyiv’s Obolon District
Journalists had to gather in Kyiv’s Pechersk district, where they were picked up by a bus and transported to the march.
The extremists, however, were tipped off to the location. They were waiting near the scene and threatened violence from the start.
“It’s a shame to be gay. It’s not normal. They are perverse!” shouted two men in front of the nearby Kyiv Golf Club complex. Police blocked these men. But one attacker injured a police officer with a powerful firecracker. The wound left a puddle of blood on the ground.
“They should all die!” said a young man, his face covered in a balaclava. He didn’t want to explain why “all gays should die,” but constantly repeated that “it’s disgusting.”
Leshchenko, a member of parliament with the Bloc of President Petro Poroshenko, wrote on Facebook that “the fate of Ukraine’s European integration will be determined this weekend during Kyiv’s gay pride parade.”
He also vowed to introduce legislation that would ban discrimination based on someone’s sexuality, a prerequisite for European Union integration.
Hundreds of police officers were on hand to provide security at the gay pride parade in Kyiv on June 6.
“We are here not for a party. We’re here to show to the outside world that we’re human and don’t want to bescared of who we are,” said 20-year-old Maxim, a hair stylist, who attended the march with three of his friends. He was too afraid to give his full name as he claimed some provocateurs might hunt him down.
“It’s hard to be openly gay. My parents have known it for a few months, and with my father, I no longer have any contact. There is so much violence targeted at openly gays,” he explained the Kyiv Post. Quickly he pointed to the massive police force. “Is this normal? No, of course not! I hope there will be one day that Ukraine accepts Europe’smoral standards when it comes to LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) rights.”
The event was supposed to start at 11 a.m., but police demanded that participants leave as soon as possible under police escort because they couldn’t guarantee the activists’ safety if they stayed.
But even as the activists fled, anti-gay protesters gathered and clashed with police, some tackling police officers to the ground and beating them. Panic and chaos broke out, with people running through Obolon’s residential areas to find a safe way out.
“Don’t go to the metro stations!” yelled some police officers.
Anti-gay militants were waiting at Kyiv’s Minsk metro station, the closest station to the march, to confront gay activists.
A minivan of Pravy Sektor’s volunteer battalion Ukraine’s Volunteer Corps was spotted on the Heroiv Stalingrad Street, one of the main roads in the Obolon district leading to the Minsk metro station.
People ran across the streets to flee as police repelled the attacks with pepper spray that struck the eyes of two attackers, who fell to the ground. Paramedics quickly arrived. One of the injured men remained defiant.
“I’m a military officer in the east. It’s a shame that our country is allowing these perverts to walk the streets. It’s not okay!” he yelled. He was taken away by medics, while police arrested the other one.
Kyiv’s top politicians were split on the wisdom of the gathering.
President Petro Poroshenko said the march is “a constitutional right for every citizen of Ukraine.” He is the first president to come out so strongly for gay rights.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko opposed the march, fearing security concerns.
The evacuation of gay activists was poorly planned. Some searched for shelter in nearby residential buildings.
Denis Panin, a board member of Fulcrum, one of the organizations involved in the Kyiv Pride event, is hopeful for the future, despite the violence.
A gay pride parade in May 2012 was also called off because of violent threats while another march in December 2012 was also marred by attacks.
“Let’s hope that every year the pride gets better and safer, and let’s talk more openly about it. Ukraine is a closeted country, and it has to come out of that closet,” Panin said.
Two men who attacked police officers are being held to the ground after the officers used pepper spray to subdue them.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter