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A gay weekend update – Odessa

August 14, 2015

A few days ago an entry was published relating to a proposed and yet somewhat mysterious premier of an Odessa LGBT festival – mysterious insofar as organisers and the knowledge of the event amongst the Odessa LGBT at the time of writing.

Since then a little more has come to light – this being due to Odessa City Council (not to be confused with the Oblast Council) having made representations to the Odessa Administrative Courts to ban the march which is proposed as part of the festival events.

Odessa City Hall

Odessa City Hall

Odessa City Council, predictably raised some reasonable concerns that were raised in the above linked entry regarding the safety of the march participants and the general public on a weekend when football fans from Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa will all be milling around the city due to two games being played in the city this weekend.

It is perhaps arguable whether the City Council is best placed to comment upon the ability of the Odessa Militsia to police such coinciding events, or whether it is the Militsia that should raise any potential violent/public (dis)order flag.

The proposed “Unity March” route – Pushkinska, Maryinska and Shevchenko.  At the time of writing, a route as yet to be approved by the Militsia.  All 3 are busy routes for traffic and prone to congestion with or without any form of marching truth be told.

Whatever the case, the City Council appealed to the Odessa Administrative Court and the court has banned the march citing a high probability of violence all things considered.

An appeal can be expected tomorrow.  One of the organisers, Alina Rakhuba, has stated “If we get an official court decision banning the event, we will file an appeal.  If they ban the demonstration on specific streets, it’s OK – Odessa is big. We will not give up. The festival will definitely take place.

It is claimed that about 200 people, including foreigners, have registered to attend the festival.

Undoubtedly the festival will take place in some form, for the Administrative Court has banned only the march – although it has to be said that any orchestrated violence can be targeted at the other festival events – where ever they are to be centered – just as easily as any march.

It has however, apparently been agreed between the event organisers and various Odessa groups such as “Odessa Self-Defence”, “Right Sector” and “Odessa Automaidan” that violence towards festival attendees from their members will not occur.

Quite whether agreements have been struck with other Odessa groups, for there are many others ranging from far left to far right (and everything in between), or if there have been any such agreements struck with the groups from Donetsk, Luhansk or Dnepropetrovsk that will be in the city for the football this weekend is a different question.

Whether any appeal against the march ban will be successful remains to be seen – albeit it seems very unlikely the court will lift the ban for any streets in or near the city centre having cited the high probability of violence and public disorder behind the ruling.

Thus it is still unclear how this is going to work itself out.  The ever-thorny problem of insuring the fundamental human rights of expression and assembly, verses that of being able to protect those exercising the said rights, the safety of the general public amongst whom those rights are being exercised, and the safety of those that are charged with that protection presents itself – A problem aggravated by two football fixtures in the city this weekend.

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