Russian LGBT festival QueerFest, traditionally a space for celebration, this year resembles a battleground, with each day – a fight for survival.
September 18, QueerFest opening ceremony. Two hours before the event, main venue calls to cancel. Reason: "...compromised integrity of the arch over the entrance, which may result in its collapse." At the same time, all other events continue.
The new venue is attacked by 20 "orthodox activists" accompanied by Vitaly Milonov, insulting, spraying green liquid and unknown gaseous substance.
24 complaints were filed with the police, including one from the St. Petersburg ombudsman's staff member.
September 19. The venue "Etazhi", well reputable for its social projects in St. Petersburg, cancels QueerFest's events, including the event by "Manifesta 10", biennale hosted by St. Petersburg this year. Organizers learn that "Etazhi" received a phone call from the police. Another venue, planned for the next day's event, cancels the same evening.
September 20. The planned "Night of Independent Music", already having moved to a different venue, starts as planned, but mid-way receives a fake bomb threat.
September 24. The police attempts to shut down the press conference themed "Who is Shutting Down QueerFest?" There is now concrete proof that it is not the extremists that scare the venues but the police. Institute of Regional Press, hosting the press conference, is pressured by podpolkovnik and major of police to cancel the event under the pretext that "violations of public order may ensue". IRP becomes the first and only venue that stands up to the pressure, exposing it to the media and the public.
At this point, the organizers no longer openly publish festival venues, instead inviting the wider public to view the event through the online feed, already viewed by hundreds of people.
"In the six years of organizing the festival, there has never been such a consistent and organized attack on our freedom of assembly and expression. Instead of ensuring public order by providing protections, the police use it as a pretext to pressure the venues to shut down the event. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, the authorities look the other way," say the festival organizers. "Every means is used to push us into the "ghetto." Yet, the festival is about dialogue and being open in society, and our best defense right now is to stay visible."