The International Olympic Committee said Tuesday it is defending authorities’ decision to remove an Italian LGBT rights activist from the Olympic Village and contended she was “peacefully” escorted from the site and not detained, the AP reports.
Former Italian lawmaker and transgender activist Vladimir Luxuria said she was escorted to a car on Monday by four men without identification and left in a rural area for shouting “It’s OK to be gay” and walking around the Olympic Village for hours clad in all rainbow. Authorities removed Luxuria as she tried to enter a women’s hockey game.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the AP that Luxuria had set out to demonstrate at the stadium and that, “We would ask anyone to make their case somewhere else,” because the games are not the proper venue for demonstrations.
Russia has faced criticism across the globe after enacting anti-LGBT policy last summer, and, until now, it was unclear how the Russian government would handle instances of protest against the legislation at the Olympics. The IOC also prohibits protests during the games.
Additionally, Adams denies Luxuria was detained, saying, “I know her stated aim to demonstrate in the venue and I believe after a couple of hours when she finally got to the venue I think she was escorted from there peacefully, not detained.”
Prior to Monday’s incident, Luxuria said she was held by authorities for several hours on Sunday for carrying a sign reading, “Gay is OK.” Police, however, deny the claims.
Human Rights First, an advocacy organization monitoring the games, condemned “political arrests” made by Russian authorities at the games, including Luxuria, migrant workers rights activists, and members of Pussy Riot.
“The Russian authorities’ relentless efforts to shut down freedom of expression, particularly when it is coming from the LGBT community, is further proof that Russia is more interested in creating a climate of fear for its citizens than allowing for the free exchange of ideas that characterize modern nations,” said HRF’s Shawn Gaylord, who returned from Sochi on Tuesday morning.