Around 2,000 people attended the first-ever Pride march in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but upsetting footage shows a violent attack by right-wing protesters of the event.
Kharkiv is one of the largest cities in Ukraine, and it was seen as a milestone that a Pride event could occur at all, given widespread homophobia in post-Communist Eastern Europe. The Pride march on Sept. 15 was met with around 500 black-clad protestors belonging to groups calling themselves "Freikorps" and "Tradition and Order," hosting what they referred to as "March for Traditional Values."
As the Pride march got underway, conservative groups shouted anti-gay slurs, harassed police who were protecting the march, and tried to physically block the procession. Some threw eggs.
The violence reached its peak after the march, with shaky cellphone footage showing a group of young men chasing a teen through a park, kicking him, and hurling objects at him until he fell to the ground. After the mob began to beat the teenage boy, a group of onlookers -- including a Reuters photographer -- helped him to safety.
Elsewhere during the march, black-clad nationalists attacked police, leading to threats, scuffles, and at least two people spraying tear gas at security forces. Seventeen were arrested, with no word about what punishment they might face.
Andriy Maymulakhin, coordinator for the LGBTQ+ rights organization Nash Mir Center, told Vice News that "groups of ultra-right youth hunted for participants of the march throughout the city and beat several of them In Kharkiv, ultranationalists are especially active and aggressive." He added, "They try to disrupt every [LGBTQ+] event in the city."
This follows a harrowing incident in May, in which the same groups attacked a planning meeting for the Pride march at a hotel. Last year they interrupted a lecture on LGBTQ+ rights, with police advising those gathered for the event to disperse for their own safety.
There's been a rise in violent nationalism in Ukraine since 2014, when its Russian-aligned head of state was overthrown. Since then, various conservative groups have criticized the influence of what they see as Western values, which includes gender and animal welfare laws. A report by the Nash Mir Center last year documented over a dozen cases of nationalists leading "safari" hunts for LGBTQ+ people. Ukrainian politicians have proposed anti-gay "propaganda" laws similar to those in Russia.