Madonna Defies St. Petersburg Gay Pride Ban, Distributes Pink Wristbands to Concert Attendees
Encouraging audience members and citizens "to fight for the right to be free," the pop star's latest socio-political statement elicited cheers and jeers in Russia.
MOSCOW – The latest stop on Madonna's controversy tour? St. Petersburg, Russia, where, at a concert on Aug. 9, she voiced her support for the local gay community.
She had promised to speak out about a controversial regulation that bans the “propagation of homosexuality" and "promotion of gay lifestyles," including the city's annual gay pride parade, weeks earlier. It was adopted by St. Petersburg authorities in March.
At the entrance to Peterbugrsky arena, audience members were handed pink wristbands, which they were asked to wear during the concert to demonstrate “tolerance for the gay community," according to a sign displayed above the stage.
Midway through the show, the pop star addressed the crowd and the issue directly, calling for “respect, tolerance and love” for gay people. “We want to fight for the right to be free,” she said and urged fans who support her stand on the gay issue to raise their hands with the bracelets. However, according to reports, not all in the 25,000-person capacity venue did so.
The singer and her band members also waved LGBT flags during the performance, and during one of the songs, Madonna stripped to black lingerie, showing the words "No Fear" scrawled on her bare back. Two nights earlier, she had stenciled the words Pussy Riot in the same area as a show of support for the jailed Russian punk group.
Warnings had been issued to U.S. citizens attending Madonna's Russia concerts after local authorities received word of threats of physical violence. Adding to the tension, several anti-Madonna protests were held in the city including one staged by the movement “The Professional Union of the Citizens of Russia,” which invited a priest to sprinkle with holy water the city’s Palace Square where Madonna performed back in 2009.
“Residents of Russia’s cultural capital are against the propagation of pederasty and other sexual perversion, the propagation of violence and vice, which, under disguise of Western culture, Louise Ciccone, known as Madonna, tries to deliver to our compatriots,” the organization said on its web site.
Incidentally, some members of St. Petersburg’s gay community also picketed the show’s venue, accusing the singer of trying to capitalize on their problems.