SF protest targets Chechnya
by David Nahmod
A group of about 50 LGBT activists gathered outside the Russian Consulate in San Francisco Tuesday, demanding that the Chechen Republic end its abuse of gay people there.
Reports have surfaced of the Russian republic actively targeting gay men, or those perceived to be gay. Human rights groups have reported that men have been detained and that some have been tortured.
A Russian newspaper reported that three men have been killed.
Earlier Tuesday, gay San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced – and the board unanimously passed – a resolution condemning Chechnya's actions.
"The actions taking place in Chechnya are tragic and an affront to all of humanity," Sheehy, who attended the protest, said in a statement. "San Francisco continues to be a beacon of hope by loudly denouncing this affront and standing as one with our LGBT brothers and sisters."
Sheehy's resolution stated that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has "actively chosen to erase the existence of gay Chechens in public commentary by claiming they do not exist, and at the same time inferring families would murder them in honor killings if gay men were in Chechnya."
Other LGBT officials on hand included City College of San Francisco board members Rafael Mandelman, Tom Temprano, and Alex Randolph, and gay former state Senator Mark Leno.
In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday, Randolph said that what's happening in Chechnya is "very personal" to him.
Randolph said he explained to the crowd that as a black, queer, German who grew up in Germany and went to school there, the news reports out of Chechnya affected him.
"If I'd been born 50 years earlier it would have been me wearing a pink triangle," he said.
Mandelman talked about his Jewish heritage.
"As a Jew I'm quite used to having mixed feelings about Russia," said Mandelman, who recalled that his own family was rescued from the Nazis by Russians at the end of World War II.
Longtime gay activist Cleve Jones, Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club Co-Chair Lou Fischer, and gay former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano also attended.
Several speakers noted that both President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had close business ties to numerous large corporations.
"I am frustrated by our inability to organize and fight back," said Jones. "It matters that we are a sanctuary city. If those people can get out of Chechnya I want them to come here."
Randolph said that no one emerged from the consulate while the protest was happening.
Meanwhile, the California Legislative LGBT Caucus issued a statement Wednesday.
"We are deeply disturbed by the reports of abuse, kidnapping, and murder of LGBT people living in Chechnya," the LGBT caucus stated. "This brutality, coupled with Chechen officials' callous disregard for LGBT lives, is horrifying."
GLAAD, an LGBT media organization, reported Tuesday that Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, condemned the attacks. LGBT activists had called on Haley to issue a statement.
"We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association," Haley stated.
She called on Chechen authorities to investigate the allegations.
Haley also said, "We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict."
Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and chief executive officer, said Haley "is taking the right step in speaking out against these blatant violations of human rights."
"This is a powerful sign that the U.S. Mission to the United Nations will continue to prioritize LGBTQ acceptance and fight discrimination and human rights abuses around the world."