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Chicago Gay Rights Activist Attacked During Russian Demonstration

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Gay-rights activist Andy Thayer reviews video of a demonstration in Russia. (CBS)

Gay-rights activist Andy Thayer reviews video of a demonstration in Russia. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago gay-rights activist who was arrested in Russia by Moscow police during a pride demonstration last month is back home and talking about the experience.

American Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, was one of more than a dozen demonstrators who planned to march in the Russian capital. They never got the chance. Russian nationalists attacked them first, and then the demonstrators were dragged off by police. 

Thayer watched a video of the incident with CBS 2’s Mike Parker and called the actions by the mob and police “infuriating.”

“A transgender activist was kicked four to five times on the pavement and another activist, a lesbian activist, was hospitalized for about four or five days,” Thayer said.

Thayer said he was grabbed by a man with close-cropped hair and a camouflage outfit. He believes the man was one of the “neo-fascists” he said were attacking demonstrators.

The arrests near Red Square came on May 28, shortly after the European Court of Human Rights criticized the Russian government for refusing to allow gay-pride demonstrations.

Among those arrested was Dan Choi, the former U.S. Army lieutenant who challenged the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and Louis Georges-Tin, the French founder of the International Day Against Homophobia.

In a video shot inside the cramped police van that hauled the demonstrators away, Choi is heard complaining that had been hit in the ear. After being held in the hot crowded van for three hours, the Americans and the others were simply let go.

Thayer said this was his second arrest in Moscow. The first was in 2009. He said he’ll go back again, regardless of the danger.

“This is the way civil rights have always been won,” he said.

On paper, homosexuality has been legal in Russia since 1993, but there are no laws forbidding discrimination against gay people.

CBS 2 sought comment from the Russian Embassy in Washington but did not receive a reply.

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