‘Sochi police right to expel gay rights activist’

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday defended the ejection of an Italian transgender gay rights activist from the Sochi Games, saying the Olympic Park and venues were not the place for demonstrations.

'Sochi police right to expel gay rights activist'
"Olympic venues are not for us the place for demonstrations," a spokesman from the International Olympic Committee said. Image: International Olympic Committee/IOC

Activist Vladimir Luxuria, a former Italian MP, was briefly held by Russian police on Sunday evening and was again escorted from the Olympic Park on Monday evening.

According to reports, Luxuria, dressed in rainbow colours of the gay rights movement, on the first occasion tried to brandish the slogan "Gay is ok" and on the second attempted to shout it at an ice hockey match.

She was on Sunday evening escorted out of the Olympic Park by Russian police but does not appear to have been formally arrested.

"What happened yesterday is a little bit unclear, I understand she was in the Park, walking around, taking to spectators," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

"Some people were pro, some were against, some were very against," he commented.

He said that Luxuria continued to demonstrate when the activist was at the ice hockey venue in the Olympic Park "and I believe she was escorted from there, peacefully, and not detained."

But he added: "The Olympic Park, the Olympic venues are not for us the place for demonstrations, whether we are sympathetic or not.

"This [issue] has split opinions around the world so we would ask anyone to make their case somewhere else."

The controversy comes after the furore that preceded the Games over Russia's now notorious law passed in 2013 that bans the promotion of "gay propaganda" to minors.

According to a statement on her website, Luxuria is now to leave Russia after having been declared "persona non grata" in the country. However the expulsion has not been confirmed by Russian officials.

READ MORE: Italian arrested in Sochi for holding gay banner

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Italy cracks down on Covid green pass protests

After one protest against Italy’s health pass sparked a Covid outbreak and others affected businesses and cultural sites, the government has ordered a clampdown.

Anti-green pass protestors walk past restaurants in Milan.
Anti-green pass protestors walk past restaurants in Milan on October 16th, 2021. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

Protests against Italy’s Covid-19 health certificate, called the ‘green pass’, will be restricted from this weekend under orders from Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.

New measures will prevent protestors from entering shopping areas or historic centres and mean demonstrations are limited to sit-ins, rather than marches or rallies, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday.

EXPLAINED: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

The ministry stated that the new rules are intended to “guarantee the rights of those who disagree, while protecting economic activity and the health of citizens”.

The rules also allow authorities to require protestors to wear masks at outdoor rallies.

The clampdown follows lobbying from Confcommercio, Italy’s retail confederation, which said the repeated disruption from demonstrations was impacting trade on weekends.

Confcommercio president Carlo Sangalli told Corriere della Sera: “Saturdays alone are worth more than 25 percent of weekly turnover for the retail and restaurant sectors, so the damage caused is very clear. Meanwhile we’re still feeling the consequences of the pandemic and risk a new surge.”

The number of protests against Italy’s health pass has risen in recent weeks following the expansion of the pass requirement to all workplaces.

The demonstrations, which tend to be relatively small but frequent and often disruptive, have now become a regular sight in central Milan, Rome and beyond.

Anti-green pass protestors in Turin’s Piazza Porta Palazzo on September 11th, 2021. Photo: Tino ROMANO/ANSA /AFP

The largest such protest, held in Rome on October 8th, attracted around 10,000 people. It later descended into violence as protestors affiliated with neo-fascist groups attacked buildings and clashed with police.

READ ALSO: Riots put Italian government under pressure to ban neo-fascist groups

Rome authorities rerouted all subsequent protest marches away from “sensitive” buildings such as government offices and trade union headquarters.

Protestors taking part in these marches have also been widely condemned for regularly comparing themselves to holocaust victims.

Protestors take part in an anti-green pass demonstration in Rome called by far-right Forza Nuova activists. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Another large protest called by dock workers in the northern port city of Trieste attracted an estimated 7,000 people at its height and continued for several days, causing disruption to businesses using the port.

A coronavirus outbreak linked to the port protest is so far known to have resulted in 200 positive Covid cases and five hospitalisations, and made Trieste the centre of a surge in cases that risks new restrictions being applied to the surrounding Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.

The city’s newly elected centre-right mayor Roberto Dipiazza subsequently banned protests in the central square, Piazza Unità d’Italia, saying they had “damaged the image of the city and threaten to take us backwards,” news agency Ansa reports, while the local prefecture said protestors had “launched objects” at protected cultural sites and were endangering the city’s heritage.