EUAM welcomes police approach to management of Ukrainian Pride eventsSeptember 21, 2021
Last weekend, the KyivPride NGO closed the final chapter of a series of Pride marches that gathered thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender (LGBT+) people, and their allies, in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa. Across Ukraine, the events passed off without major trouble. It was a public-order effort that the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) contributed to by bringing civil society and law-enforcement officials together in the lead-up to each event.
Pride events represent a tribute to human diversity in all its richness, and to the right of every human person to be proud of who they are. Taking place in Ukraine, the march is also a manifestation of freedom of assembly and expression, and a public-order challenge for the National Police (NPU). This summer, upon the request of its police counterpart, EUAM had the opportunity to facilitate different coordination meetings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa. The main objective for each locality? To bring together the law-enforcement authorities with the organisers to ensure coordination on safety measures ahead of the events.
In August 2021, EUAM co-signed, among other embassies and international missions, a letter addressed to the local authorities and the police, encouraging them to facilitate the Pride events in each city, and prevent the disturbances that have sometimes occurred during Pride through the actions of counter-demonstrators.
In Odesa, Pride events have been organised every year since 2016, sometimes with violence against the LGBT+ community, which last year for instance resulted in injuries to participants and police officers. For the 2021 march, radical groups had also made threats ahead of the event. Therefore, EUAM’s Field Office in Odesa brought partners around the table in advance, and the event ultimately taking place largely peacefully, with 200 people marching down Odesa’s Primorsky Boulevard.
Odesa authorities deployed more than 1,000 police officers to maintain public order around the Pride event: 350 special police unit officers, 350 national guards, 46 officers from the Patrol Police, 255 district police officers, and 100 other officers for support function. 12 dialogue police officers also joined the event to ensure communication and good cooperation between the police and the organisers.
“There were a large number of opponents around us, some of them very aggressive. But the police handled them with flying colours.” (Anna Leonova, Gay Alliance Ukraine)
”There were a large number of opponents around us, some of them very aggressive. But the police handled them with flying colours,” later commented Anna Leonova, from the organising NGO Gay Alliance Ukraine (GAU). “This year, thanks to jointly coordinated actions of the National Police, our European partners, volunteers, mass media, friendly bloggers and activists, we have together managed to march the longest distance in the history of Odesa Prides!”
Meanwhile, with 7,500 and 1,500 estimated participants, the events organised in Kyiv and Kharkiv were even more challenging for NPU. There, EUAM also facilitated meetings between the police, organisers, and local authorities, providing pratical advice on human rights and gender equality, pre-emptive strategic communication, and public order.
The preparatory meetings allowed parties to engage, and the police to put in place a robust operational plan that also respected human-rights standards and the right to assemble peacefully. EUAM observers who assessed the performance of the police witnessed Ukraine’s dialogue police officers ensuring ongoing communication with the Pride organisers during the events. Despite the heavy police presence, officers applied a minimal-interference, conflict‑reducing, approach that guaranteed an orderly and peaceful experience for everybody.