photo: Kirill Nepomnyaschiy/ Used with permission

Riot police cornered and beat the forty participants in the Slavic (LGBT) Pride March held in Minsk, Belarus, on Saturday, arresting a dozen marchers according to on-scene blog reports on (which has more photos, video and ongoing updates).

Minsk had its gay pride march.  For just 10 minutes, 40  Belarusians and Russians waived a 12 meters long rainbow flag for a short march of approximately 200 meters.  They were at first met by a large group of journalists, photographers and TV crew.  But when they reached the first crossing point, they were trapped by several vans of anti-riot police.  Suddenly, the doors of the vans opened and anti-riot officers ran towards the participants. “I never saw anything of the kind” said Nikolai Alekseev by mobile phone.  “They were brutal and violent” he added.  Another participant who did not want to be named said: “It was like a group of wild dogs”.  The march ended with most of the participants being arrested and violently beaten.  A few managed to escape but the police ran after them…

The participants who were not been arrested are still under shock.  One can feel that they are proud of what they did today, but you can also feel the stress in their voices after the violent police crack down they suffered.

After the arrests, German, Russian and French diplomats were contacted by parade organizers to intervene on behalf of those being held.

The eight of the twelve arrested for participating in an unauthorized march were released on their own reconnaissance and ordered to appear in court on Monday.  Eighteen skinheads were also arrested.

Saturday’s planned route was altered at the last minute after the parade was banned by the authorities who claimed that the parade was to “too close” to the metro.

Threats of violence hung over the event. Friday night’s opening ceremony which including the screening of the Canadian documentary Beyond Gays: The Politics of Pride was disrupted by anti-gay protesters and a bomb threat. The real time blog updates:

21:47: Qote from Pride organisers: ” The way the Crowne Plaza management is handking the situation is far above all we could ever have dreamed of.   Looks like they are more deternined than us that the show must go on!”

21:40: Bomb alert at Crown Plaza.  Film interrupted.   Police asked to stop the film and relocate to another room within the hotel. “So, we are having a break and relocating.”

21:05: Screening of film now started. Just over 100 braved the protestors to get into the hotel.

20:40: Police and riot police have cleared the entrance to the hotel and have cordoned it off.  Participants are entering, but protsters are standing by in front of the hotel.  The room is already full for the film. Alekseev said that the show will start at 9pm instead of 8pm and asked for the understanding for the delay.

20:05 : Minsk Crowne Plaza Hotel is under siege by a few dozen anti-gay protesters.  The hotel is hosting at 8pm local time the premiere of the Canadian documentary Beyond Gays: The Politics of Pride.   At 8pm, the show did not start and only 40 participants out of the 150 who confirmed their presence could make it into the hotel.

20:00 : The event is probably going to be cancelled. The access to the hotel is blocked.  Only a dozen or so participants could reach the hotel.  The police is expected in the premises.

19:55: Hotel is now under seige.  It is not possible to enter, and not possible to leave.

19:50: The premiere of the movie is scheduled in 10 minutes.  Despite organiers keeping the location secret, Radio Liberty Belarus published the location on its website two hours ago. [Activist] Sergey Androsenko reports that he has been informed by phone that protesters are on a tram, on their way to disrupt the event.

Earlier, Amnesty International sent a statement of support published by Belarusian News Agency BelaPAN. The story said

Belarusian authorities must show greater commitment to its obligations under human rights.