Erik McGregor is a New York City based artist, photographer and activist. Erik is a member of the People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street and co-writer of the Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. As a published freelance photographer, he has documented activist groups actions in NYC since 2011.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Bicoastal LGBTQ Ppotest to #FreeTheChechen100 activists demand US Government to expedite visas for Chechen LGBTQ asylum seekers
New York City – Bay Area and New York LGBTQ activists are holding a joint protest rally today to protest against the illegal detention since February of over 100 gay men in Chechnya. The protests by the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network and Rise and Resist group in New York come in response to an urgent call for public solidarity action by RUSA LGBT, a refugee resettlement group in New York, and the Russian LGBT Network, leading the grassroots evacuation of Chechens inside Russia.
US LGBTQ groups are mobilizing a larger gay movement to demand the President Trump add his voice to global leaders urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the group, and for the US government – and Canada -- to expedite visas Chechen LGBTQ asylum seekers. Activists are calling on all US progressives to speak out and help fund several grassroots groups engaged in rescue and resettlement activities to the persecuted Chechen LGBTQ community. Today’s protest is part of a growing social campaign, #FreeTheChechen100.
“We stand in urgent solidarity with our Chechen gay brothers inside illegal detention centers, but also other Chechens who are imprisoned by the brutal regime of Ramzan Kadryov,” said Brian Worth of the BAQAFN. “The attacks on gay Chechen men aren’t new but these arrests are an escalation – intent to wipe out a class of citizens. That’s a step toward genocide.”
“We understand that the arrests of gay men have been halted – for now – so international pressure is working. But we can’t let up until they’re freed and reach safety,” added Jay Walker of Rise and Resist.
The detentions mark a “gay pogrom” that began in February when Chechen leader Ramzan Kadryov began to arrest and imprison gay men. Three were murdered; other disappearances are rumored, according to Human Rights Watch who verified some releases in April. Putin says the federal Russian government is investigating. It’s unclear how many men are now imprisoned. Of 80 calls to the Russia LGBT hotline, 56 were among the initial 100 detainees.
If they are released, the danger remains high. Local Chechen authorities have urged the populace to engage in “honor” killings of any suspected gay men – a purging of the “stain” of homosexuality – not a new phenomenon in tradition-bound Chechnya. One gay honor killing was reported in the media already. Russian LGBTQ activists have rescued 42 Chechens fleeing the region, but more desperately seek asylum outside Europe, fearing their relatives will hunt them down for honor killings.
“We are urging all US gay people, and all US citizens to speak out, and to push our government to provide visas and help,” said BAQAFN’s Worth. Citizens are urged to direct donations to RUSA LGBT in New York and Rainbow Railroad in Canada for resettlement of Chechen gay asylees; and to Russia LGBT Network to continue its evacuation and support activities.
New Yorkers are invited to bring candles and cups to the evening rally and vigil at The Arc at Washington Square Park; Bay Area residents are invited to bring signs. Both events will feature speakers and offer rally participants a chance to speak out.