Equality March took place in Odesa, Southern Ukraine, on Sunday, August 13, the march closed the Odesa pride 2017 Queer Culture Festival. The first festival was in 2015, mayor’s office didn’t agree to issue permission to hold the march of this kind. Anna Leonova, the event planner recalls that she was personally prohibited to holdd any events within three days. Last year, she did manage to hold the March despite the fact that the city hall tried to ban any events that day in that place. The march was attacked by the activists of AutoMaidan, there were clashes with police as well – the latest were quite tough in preventing provocations. About 100 people marched 200 meters from Duke de Richelieu monument to the city hall. The event lasted for 20 minutes, then the participants were taken away to the venue of the festival by buses.
This year 300 people were announced to participate in the Equality March, other guests of the festival were also expected. The final number of 500 people was declared, although the organizers couldn’t believe that themselves. The March was planned to start from the Vorontsov Palace columns and to finish at the same place – near the city hall, which is 700 meters away. Only couple days before the Equality March, the activists of the Odesa department of the Sokol movement (youth wing of the Svoboda party, Ukraine’s far right party) applied to the city council to hold their own rally “For Right Values” with exactly the same rout. This wasn’t the only threat fort h LGBT-activists. Some Right Sector Odesa activists repeatedly aggressively announced that they were going to impede the March. Prior to that the representatives of the Greek-Catholic Church – Kyiv Patriarchate sat down with the churchmen of the
Moscow Patriarchate to talk about the Odesa Pride 2017 festival. They also declared their rally “For Right Values” to be held the same day in the evening.
In the result, the announced 300 people never showed up. One hundred participants marched as it was a year ago.
Under enhanced security they walked from the Vorontsov Palace columns to the Monument to Duke de Richelieu. The perimeter of the demonstration was fenced off, police was everywhere, and in case you were late it was impossible to join the rally. The rally stopped near the Duke monument as the way was blocked by the protesters. However, there was no particular risk: police zoned the parties really accurately leaving no chances for direct confrontation. Thus the situation lasted for about an hour.
LGBT activists shouted their chants, the protesters – their ones. It should be noted that the equality march participants were more creative in their chants and posters: “We have dignity – we have the right”, “Diversity is society, equality is future” and so on. Slogans like “Human rights above all!” were replied with “Ukraine above all!”
Again to the credit of police – they really acted together and with confidence. There were some individual penetration of aggressive young men (and women) into the “hostile camp”, but they were quickly blocked in a very civilized manner. There were several elderly women on the other side of the fence from the side of Yekaterininska square, who shouted some obscenities and “Odesa is a hero city!” for some reason.
Last year police reported 2 detained persons during the Equality March. This year everything was smooth, and this is probably the main achievement of the rallies like that. The city is softly getting used to the fact that all people are different. That people should be more tolerant to the preferences of other people. Together with the city all the county will inevitably achieve this understanding.
By the way, Odesa is the only Ukrainian city, where it is possible to hold the March of this kind. This is a small but victory in the struggle for the human rights. However, it seems that Maidan was standing for this as well.