LGBTQ* activists stage Chechnya protest outside Russian Embassy against gay 'concentration camps'

Matt Broomfield

Queer activists and members of London's LGBTQ* community have staged a protest outside the Russian embassy, calling for action to protect the gay men reportedly being tortured in 'concentration camps' in Chechnya.

At least 100 gay men have been rounded up in the Russian-administrated republic, according to independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and at least three have allegedly been murdered. The victims are reportedly being beaten, electrocuted, and forced to sit on glass bottles.

Around 400 protesters descended on the gated embassy in Kensington. They brought pink flowers, wreaths and pink cardboard triangles, echoing the insignia given to queer people exterminated in Nazi concentration camps.

Others waved placards reading "queer solidarity", "close the camps - asylum seekers welcome" and "high camp not concentration camps", as the crowd chanted "no human is illegal". Some demonstrators wore masks of Vladimir Putin's face.

Damien Arness Dalton is a member of queer direct action group Sexual Avengers, which supported the protest. He told The Independent: "I'm here to show solidarity with our global LGBT community.

"Clicktivism and sharing news articles aren't enough of a response to these atrocities, beatings and torture camps.

"We will always face homophobia and it's time we acted as a global community to ensure our voices are not silent. To think it could be any one of us in [those camps] breaks my heart. Our geographical privilege shouldn't blind us to the sexual freedoms we enjoy – or our unity with those who do not."

Mr Dalton and other activists attempted to place signs and pink triangles in the gates of the embassy itself, but these were quickly torn down by police officers, to boos from the crowd.

A smaller group of protesters returned after dark to scale the gates, and fling armfuls of flowers across the doorstep and lawn.

Another protester, Vyvian Manning, said: "We want our voices to be heard by Theresa May as well as by Vladimir Putin. Over half of the countries where gay sex is illegal are former British colonies, often using laws introduced under British rule.

"Yet our government constantly deports queer people to face deportation and death in these nations. So we won't let our government paint themselves as progressive, using the torture and murder of gay people in Chechnya as a political pawn. Our queer solidarity smashes borders."

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