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Dutch gay-rights activists protest Russian policy

| Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, 9:39 p.m.

AMSTERDAM — More than 2,000 gay-rights supporters protested in Amsterdam's largest square on Sunday, carrying signs, singing songs and chanting slogans to condemn Russia's homosexuality policies.

Demonstrators especially criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, with performers leading the crowd in cheering “Putin Out!” An enormous blow-up doll caricaturing the president flanked one side of the stage — flexing his muscles, bare-chested, and draped in a rainbow flag.

Protesters said the main concern is a law adopted by Russia's parliament in June making “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” illegal.

Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan told the crowd he hopes the protest would send the message to Moscow that “love is not propaganda.”

Afterward, he said the city “is proud of its homosexual community, and they have the right to support from government” — not persecution. Amsterdam has a long history of tolerance of gay rights, including having the first gay marriages in 2001.

Van der Laan said he didn't know whether the message would reach Moscow, but the protest was “a matter of principle.”

“You have to say something at any rate,” he said. He called on the Dutch government to submit a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

Wijnand Looien, who traveled from the far south of the country to attend, said he believed such demonstrations make a difference.

“There's discussion about this everywhere,” he said.

The protest, titled “To Russia With Love,” was organized in response to a concert featuring a Russian state orchestra and choir on the far side of the square later in the evening.

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