PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO | A crowd of well over 100 demonstrators gathered at Washington Square Park on the evening of May 18 to bring attention to the plight of LGBTQ Chechens, roughly 100 of whom have been reported kidnapped by officials and tortured in secret prisons in the Russian republic.
Organized by longtime activist Timothy Lunceford and Rise and Resist leader Jay Walker, the protest attracted the support of RUSA LGBT, a network of New York area Russian descendants, as well as of members of Rise and Resist, Gays Against Guns, and ACT UP.
One hundred of the demonstrators wore pink triangles in honor of the estimated number of gay men rounded up in Chechnya. The protesters drew attention to reporting earlier in the day from BuzzFeed News that the US State Department was being unhelpful in efforts by American activists to facilitate the departure of LGBTQ Chechens from their country. BuzzFeed reported that the Russia LGBT Network said as many as 40 gay men are in hiding in Chechnya but that the Network was “discouraged” by conversations it initiated with US embassy officials there.
Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, a strong ally of the Kremlin's Vladimir Putin, has denied there is any crackdown on gays there, saying, there are no LGBTQ people there, that “in Chechnya we just don’t have this problem.”
A vigil in solidarity with LGBTQ Chechens was also held in San Francisco on Thursday evening, organized by the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network.
RUSA LGBT, whose leader Nina Long is seen here addressing the demonstrators, is organizing the May 20 LGBTQ Pride March in Brighton Beach, the first such event hosted by Russian-speaking activists in the nation. – Additional reporting by Paul Schindler