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Moscow Pride 2011: A Response to the Obama Administration’s Statement

The first and most important thing that needs to be said is that we are very fortunate that no Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activists exercising their right to peaceably assemble were killed near Red Square on May 28, 2011.

While Western media sources have made a great deal out of the fact that a few of us visiting Western activists got some minor injuries at the hands of the police or fascists, they have been virtually silent about the fact that a leading Russian transgender activist, Anna Komarova, a long-time member of the GayRussia organization, was kicked three or four times in the head while he lay on the pavement, and due only to good fortune was not seriously injured or killed.
Another participant, Elena Kostyuchenko, a journalist with Novaya Gazeta newspaper who came out of the closet as a Lesbian on Saturday, joining the protest with her rainbow flag, was still hospitalized as of my last information from yesterday.  I do not know the nature of her injuries or the prognosis for her recovery.
The primary responsibilities for these near-tragedies lies with the fascists, who were charged with only minor crimes, and the Russian government which allowed the serious crimes of assault and attempted murder to occur, despite possessing overwhelming force.  These crimes did not occur in some back alleyway or obscure side street, but in broad daylight literally about 50 yards away from Red Square.  
Secondary responsibility for these crimes lies with all of those non-Russian governments, including the Obama administration, which valued their trade and military relationships with the Russian government over speaking out for human rights.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, who are fond of talking about human rights violations when they occur in small nations which can be kicked around by the United States, especially if those nations are not allied with the U.S., abysmally failed the test of human rights leadership on Saturday.  
After the Russian authorities banned Moscow Pride a few weeks ago – in direct contravention to the 17th Article of the Russian Constitution and last fall’s unanimous decision of the European Court of Human Rights – Moscow Pride organizers directly appealed to all Western embassies to issue public statements to the Russian government before the protest.  
All of these governments, including the Obama administration, failed to do so.  The U.S. embassy told Pride organizers that they would simply “monitor the situation.”  As a result, the Russian riot police apparently felt they had a free hand to conduct themselves in the same brutal manner as at previous Prides.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow did finally issue a brief statement about the attacks on Moscow Pride only after the event, signed by a lesser State Department official (   
In Western news articles, the roles of myself, Dan Choi and other international activists in Moscow Pride 2011 were magnified out of all proportion to our actual participation.  LGBT Russians suffered the greatest degree of violence and took by far the greatest risks – and continue to do so – and yet their sufferings have gone almost totally unnoticed by the international press.  The least we can do as people in the West is speak out about impending violence before it happens, and thus help forestall that violence.
— Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network (Chicago) and participant in Moscow Pride 2011
Link to my statement at the Friday, May 27 press conference before Moscow Pride:
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Andy Thayer

Andy Thayer

Andy Thayer is a co-founder of the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism and the Gay Liberation Network (, a Chicago-based LGBT direct action group which has been at the forefront of gay rights, anti-police brutality and anti-war organizing. He's been one of the lead organizers of most of the city's large anti-war protests for the last several years, including a march of 15,000 on Lake Shore Drive at the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He's been arrested numerous times in various protests and was recently found not guilty of two felony counts from a January 2008 protest against a Chicago visit by then-President George W. Bush. In May he was among a handful of Western LGBT activists arrested along with dozens of Russians activists at a government-banned gay pride demonstration in Moscow, Russia. He currently is among the activists organizing a march on the Obama 2012 National Campaign Headquarters in Chicago on the 10th anniversary of America’s longest-ever war, the Afghanistan War. He and other activists are also helping organize the huge protests that will confront the May 2012 NATO/G8 meetings in Chicago.