Organisers of a LGBT festival in the Ukrainian City of Lviv were forced to cancel the event after a organised protest by a far-right group.
This was more than your usual protest, as it had rather violent overtones. The group surrounded a hotel filled with festival participants, throwing stones and chanting “kill, kill”.
The festival, which had the theme of equality and would have featured film screenings, literary discussions and public events, has faced difficulty from the start. The problems stemmed from the fact that neither the police or the authorities gave their blessing of the festival. Venues then began pulling out, saying they would only allow it if the mayor gave his approval, citing safety concerns.
Olena Shevchenko of the NGO Insight, one of the organisers of the event, had this to say: “Then, the hotel we had booked for people coming from outside Lviv told us we could not stay there. When we arrived, the administrator told us the city authorities had told them we were perverts, they had Googled us and said people like us should burn in hell.”
Things continued as a court hearing took place on Friday, where a late night ruling was made that all public events should be banned for the weekend. Some of the members of the far-right group attended proceedings, wearing masks and intimidating Olena.
However, it all truly came to a head on Saturday when protestors gathered around a hotel were 70 people participating in the festival had gathered. Around 200 people gathered outside the building, and only a single police car arrived about an hour after the festival participants had called them. They were thankfully evacuated by bus, as the protestors chanted “kill, kill, kill”.
MP Mustafa Nayyem, one of the initiators of the Maidan revolution of 2014 that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, spoke on Facebook about his disappointment in how officials dealt with what happened.
He said: “The authorities should always react when people’s rights are infringed upon. It doesn’t matter whose rights it is – LGBT people, the opposition, patriots, migrants, women, the elderly or children. The silence of the Lviv authorities and response to these events differs little to the indifference of the authorities under Yanukovych.”
Despite this, Andriy Sadovy (mayor of Lviv) remained silent until Sunday, and when he finally addressed matters he seemed to place blame on both groups equally.
He said via Facebook: “Yesterday’s events in Lviv are a result of a carefully planned provocation. Participants from both sides were conscious or unconscious parts of the whole picture.”