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Kharkiv, Ukraine, celebrated its first-ever Pride march on Sunday. But after the march was over, far-right mobs hunted and attacked LGBTQ people around the city.
It wasn’t easy making Pride happen in Kharkiv. It’s a large conservative city with a conservative government, and it’s less than an hour away from Ukraine’s border with Russia. According to Vice, Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes threatened legal action to stop the march from happening. Far-right groups threatened violence, and in May, ultranationalists stormed a hotel conference room where people were meeting to organize the Pride march and shut down the meeting.
But the LGBTQ people of Kharkiv and their community and allies throughout Ukraine were not easily cowed into submission. Ultranationalist groups in Ukraine have been growing bolder since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, but so has support for LGBTQ rights.
It’s estimated that about 2,000 people participated in the march on Sunday. Approximately 500 counter-protesters calling themselves the “March for Traditional Values” also came but were prevented from disrupting the Pride march by heavy police presence. However, once the march was over and police and participants went their separate ways, gangs of ultranationalists hunted and attack some who marched in the Pride event.
Video taken after the event and posted to YouTube shows ultranationalist attackers, some with covered faces, hitting a teen boy, chasing him, and kicking him repeatedly as he laid on the ground. The video also shows mobs of masked ultranationalists chasing people through the streets and getting violent with police. Three Pride participants and two police were injured, and 17 people from the far-right were arrested.
Appalled to see how after the peaceful #LGBT #KharkivPride, members of extreme right-wing groups attacked people in a park. One can identify perpetrators on photos and videos that are available online. We call on the #police to investigate these attacks promptly and effectively. pic.twitter.com/lLPyvgNRdj— UNHumanRightsUkraine (@UNHumanRightsUA) September 16, 2019
Despite the violence, Andriy Maymulakhin, coordinator for Ukranian LGBTQ rights organization the Nash Mir Center, told Vice that the march was a success. “We can’t control the far-right nationalists,” he said, “but this enthusiasm, the big level of participation, and the support from civil society are very positive factors for the Ukrainian LGBT community.”
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Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.