Gay-rights activist detained at Olympic Park in Sochi
Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for transgender rights, walks in Olympic Park at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Luxuria said she was detained by police at the Olympics after being stopped while carrying a rainbow flag that read in Russian: "Gay is OK." Police on Monday denied this happened. (AP Photo/Steve Barker)
SOCHI, Russia — An Italian activist shouting “It’s OK to be gay” and dressed in a rainbow-colored outfit and large headdress was detained Monday as she entered an arena to watch an Olympic hockey game.
Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament who has become a prominent transgender rights crusader and television personality, was stopped by four men and then driven away by police in a car with Olympic markings.
Luxuria later told The Associated Press she was kept in the car for about 10 minutes, then released in the countryside after the men had taken away her Olympic spectator pass. She eventually made it back to her hotel and said she was leaving Russia this morning.
“They don’t say anything. They just were people who had to do this and they did it,” Luxuria said.
Earlier Monday, Luxuria walked around the Olympic Park in Sochi for about two hours. She was shouting “Gay is OK” and “It’s OK to be gay” in both English and Russian.
Luxuria said she was detained on Sunday evening by Russian police who told her she should not wear clothes with slogans supporting gay rights. Police denied detaining her.
Luxuria arrived at a ticket inspection barrier at the hockey arena just before an evening game was due to begin. She passed through the barrier and was being given directions to her seat when four men who were not wearing any identification surrounded her and started shouting “take her away.” They then led her out of the venue and to the parking lot.
“I was very, very afraid this time because the first time they said, ‘It’s OK for the first time, don’t do it again for the second time.’ So, this time I was a little bit afraid,” Luxuria said. “But they just left me outside, in the country, there, outside and that’s it.”
Before she went to the stadium, Luxuria said she did not want to be arrested.
“It’s not nice to be all alone in a room with a neon light not knowing what’s going on,” she said Monday afternoon, but then added it was important for her “to stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay and transgender people all over the world.”
It was not immediately clear why Luxuria was detained. Last year, the Russian parliament passed a law banning “propaganda” of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.