On May 23, the annual Side by Side LGBT Film Festival opened in Moscow with multiple international diplomats in attendance. Within hours of the opening, the organization wrote on Facebook that a group including far-right “activists” from the SERB and NOD movements had attacked attendees as they entered the festival’s first venue. According to the festival’s organizers, “people were holding posters, displaying neo-Nazi and extremist symbols, and behaving aggressively: they tried to block the entrance to the film club and insulted attendees. One poured ammonia onto an employee of the Canadian embassy.” The message noted that the action had not been approved in advance by local authorities, as Russian law requires for all public events.
Side by Side organizers called the police, who reportedly observed the aggressive demonstrators without interfering for two and a half hours. Organizers said they had already submitted multiple complaints about the matter and were grappling with attempts on the part of a district police chief to argue that the festival should be shut down.
The Moscow affiliate of the St. Petersburg-based Side by Side has film screenings scheduled through March 26 and will feature works from The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Rafiki to shorts and documentaries.
Update: At about 9:20 PM, Side by Side announced that the situation was under control and that the festival’s opening event, a conversation with Miseducation author Emily M. Danforth, was underway.