MINSK, May 15, 2010 - Belarus had its first Gay Pride March this afternoon. But after some 200 metres, it was broken up by the riot police with twelve participants arrested after scenes of reported police violence.
Around 40 brave Belarusians and Russians carried a 12 meters-long rainbow flag for the short march. They were at first met by a large group of journalists, photographers and TV crew, pausing briefly for a "photo oppotunity.
But when the march reached the first intersection, participants were 'trapped' by several vans of riot police.
Suddenly, participants reported, the doors of the vans opened and riot officers ran towards the march.
"I never saw anything of the kind" said Moscow Pride organiser 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 many of the participants being arrested and violently beaten. A few managed to escape but the police ran after them.
While the police were running after the participants, who were trying to escape, Sergey Androsenko, chief organiser of this Minsk march was arrested.
All told, 12 participants were arrested, including one of the organisers of St Petersburg's Pride and at least five other Russians and six Belarusians.
"We managed to say what we wanted to say, we managed to unveil the large rainbow flag and walk with it for 10 minutes" said Nikolai Alekseev who managed to "escape", hiding in a small room used for storing trash in a nearby building.
"The reaction of the authorities against this peaceful action is disproportionate as all journalists could witness today that this event did not create any problem to the society or anyone" added Alekseev.
"I am very shocked by all this. Obviously, some journalists told the protesters and the police as we were met with people throwing eggs at us," declared Maria Yefremenkova, organiser of the St Petersburg Pride.
And Nikolai Baev, one of the Moscow Pride organisers who arrived by train from Moscow this morning to take part in the march, said: "It was a very short march, but very effective. People were very heroic too take part today."
In a statement received from Paris, Louis-Georges Tin, President of the IDAHO Committee said "We are outraged to see so much police violence against a peaceful event and we can only admire the courage of these 40 heroes who took part to this march today despite knowing the risks."
There are report that more than 10 skinheads who were trying to prevent the march from going ahead were also arrested by police.