Over 150 protesters with a Ukrainian far-right group attempted to block a Pride march in the national capital of Kiev this weekend.
Activists with C14, a nationalist group loosely affiliated with neo-Nazism, descended on the Sunday march three years after the annual LGBTQ celebration was disbanded due following an onslaught of violence by anti-gay extremists. But this time police were ready to fight off the extremist contingent: Thousands of officers were reportedly on duty to protect queer and trans marchers.
As the Agence Presse-France originally reported, members of C14 attempted to block the parade’s progress at least seven times. Five officers were injured in the scuffle, with right-wing protesters hurling cans of gasoline at law enforcement.
Fifty-six of the anti-gay activists were apprehended by police as a result.
The far-right group’s demonstration was unsuccessful, as the crowd completed the 20-minute march undeterred by homophobic hate. While estimates of the crowd size vary, record numbers of people turned out for the event. Organizers with Kiev Pride say the pro-LGBTQ contingent numbered 6,000 individuals, while the Interior Ministry tabulated the attendance at a still-sizable 2,000.
Either figure would more than double turnout from the previous year’s festivities, according to the AFP. The city of 2.8 million held its first Pride parade in 2016, two years after pro-Western president Petro Poroshenko came to power.
Although homosexuality was banned under Soviet laws, laws criminalizing sodomy were lifted in 1991 as Ukraine transitioned to being a post-Communist nation.
The ever-increasing support for LGBTQ Ukrainians was evident in this weekend’s parade. The march included the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, and Rebecca Harms, a German representative to European Parliament.
Despite the government’s increasing embrace of LGBTQ rights, obstacles remain to the full integration of queer and trans people in society. Recognition of same-sex marriage is banned in Article 51 of the Constitution, while the Ukrainian Parliament refused to affirm a European hate crime law passed under the Istanbul convention in 2016 because it included pro-LGBTQ protections.
But three years after a dozen right-wing assailants attacked Kiev Pride with flares, Ukraine is making definite progress in regards to the acceptance of queer and trans people—as opposed to fellow post-Soviet countries like Russia and Azerbaijan.
A 2017 survey from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) found that a strong majority of Ukrainians (59 percent) felt LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination in the workplace. Just 21 percent of respondents felt queer and trans people were not entitled to equal protection under national laws.