Earlier this week, Russia's Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality organized an action in more than thirteen cities across that country thanking the global community for standing in solidarity with Russian LGBT people, who are being persecuted by Vladimir Putin's government.
The action, called "From Russia with Love," was held on Tuesday, September 3, to coincide with a worldwide day of demonstrations supporting the Russian LGBT community. Events were organized by the international advocacy group All Out and took place in 21 countries on 6 continents.
To thank the world for this show of support, Russian LGBTs and their allies gathered and took photographs of themselves holding signs with messages of gratitude. In many cities the gatherings were monitored by police, so attendees often had to refrain from specifically mentioning LGBTs or homosexuality so as not to run afoul of Russia's law banning so-called "gay propaganda."
"We did not plan this flashmob as an action to attract public attention. It was a friendly get-together to make a photo-shoot in the open. Our posters did not carry political information: we just wrote words of gratitude without even indicating to whom and for what: those who we are sending our smiles and thanks to, will understand it anyway.
"Despite police's nervous attention and a few attempts to disrupt us, we are glad that we were able to finish our action and send our friends abroad our deepest gratitude - this is the least we can do now. Thank you for your support and solidarity! Spasibo!"
A selection of photos from the "From Russia with Love" action is after the jump. Fair warning: they're incredibly moving. After all, people in Russia have been arrested for holding pro-equality signs, yet these brave LGBTs and allies took the risk and gathered anyway -- to thank us, simply for having enough of a conscience to care.
It's us who should be thanking them -- for speaking up for human rights in the face of state-sponsored bullying, hatred, and terror -- and for showing us what courage really looks like.