Antwerp has been a hub of LGBT pride in recent days. In addition to hosting the World Out Games, the Belgian city also celebrated its pride this weekend. Then, as if that's not gay enough, was the site of a massive same-sex kiss-in aimed at anti-gay Russia.
Called "To Russia, With Love," the kiss-in Friday featured hundreds of activists locking lips outside the Russian consulate in Antwerp to show their solidarity with LGBT people in Russia. "We see images of our Russian friends being humiliated and brutalized by perpetrators who remain unpunished, and we are outraged by this," said organizer Marcia Poelman. "Today we are gathered here to speak out for our friends in Russian who see their voice silenced," she said. "You are not alone, we stand by you, today, and always."
But the protest wasn't simply about abstract solidarity. It was also a call on the Antwerp city government to cut ties with its Russian sister city, St. Petersburg.
"As a twin city of St. Petersburg, the Antwerp LGBT organizations feel they have to speak out about what is happening in Russia," said Poelman. "We ask that city ties are suspended or if not, that our city council gets more concrete on how they want to use them to try and make a difference."
If Antwerp is serious about their commitment to equality, and to hosting LGBT events like the World Out Games, they should consider the activists's proposal. And clearly they are: the gent in jeans above and to the right is Antwerp's Vice Mayor, Philip Heylen, who came out to show his support.
Here are some more images and video from the kiss-in held outside the Russian consulate in Antwerp:
Photos by Jill Bertels.