A transgender, former member of the Italian Parliament, says she was arrested and detained by Russian police after holding a gay rights protest at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Vladimir Luxuria, who was holding a sign saying “Gay Is OK” at Olympic Park on Sunday, says she was not released until early Monday. She told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the police wanted to take away her sign.
“They wanted to keep it, and I said ‘No I want it back.’” the 48-year-old said, who is also a television host. She said authorities treated her with respect but told her she was prohibited from displaying pro-gay signs in public.
Gay rights in Russia have come under intense scrutiny at this year’s Olympics after authorities passed a law last year criminalizing the promotion of gay “propaganda” to children. Critics say it has helped perpetuate a culture of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Putin has tried to reassure visitors to the Olympics, saying gay athletes, officials, and onlookers have nothing to fear as long as they “leave the children in peace.”
A spokesman for the Sochi police would not confirm the detention to NBC News. Sochi organizing committee spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina said police told the committee that there is no record of the detention or arrest.
Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee told reporters: “On the wider issue, as we have said very often, I am sure the Games will not be used as platform for any demonstration and we hope that continues.”
Luxuria said she won’t keep quiet, telling Reuters: “I tell you if…I don’t have the opportunity to have a flag with ‘Its OK to be gay’ written on it I will shout it.” She added, “I know how to say it in Russian.”