Vera Zenina stood in Albany’s Lafayette Park Sunday night (Aug. 4) while cars occasionally drove by, some honking. She held a sign that read, in Russian, “Children 404—We are with you, we support you.”
The sign refers to an organization that supports Russian LGBT youth, who are forgotten and nonexistent to society (like “error 404” missing pages on the Internet). Zenina, originally from Russia, joined several others in a vigil for the LGBT community in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill into law that criminalizes homosexual propaganda.
“The thing is that in Russia, the law can be bent,” said Zenina. “So, anything can be considered propaganda, just depends on how you put it.”
The vigil was organized by local activist Eyad Alkurabi, who has plans to continue to organize international civil rights activism.
“It’s interesting on how some sides we have mass progress, and on other sides we have mass oppression,” said Alkurabi. The institutionalized discrimination in Russia is in sharp contrast with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which paves the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Since the Russian law passed, many gay bars and clubs in the United States have boycotted Russian vodka in protest.
Sunday night, other young activists stood holding signs that read “Silence=Death,” “Free Queer Russia,” “Equality Speaks,” and “We stand with our brothers and sisters in Russia.”
“I’m very grateful for the support and for the fact that people care,” said Zenina. “I find it very inspiring, and I hope people in Russia will find it inspiring as well.”