Russian LGBT groups warn of “impending tragedy” as Olympics approach & violence increases

A coalition of respected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in Russia are warning of an “impending tragedy” as violence against gay and trans people has significantly increased in that country, while government security forces look the other way, or some allege, are in cahoots with the attackers. (See full statement below.)

With less than one year to go before Russia hosts the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Putin regime seems to be doing everything it can to squash any and all political dissent at home, in the great tradition of his Soviet forbears.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his KGB days, courtesy of the President of the Russian Federation Web site.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his KGB days, courtesy of the President of the Russian Federation Web site.

Today’s warning from Russian LGBT groups comes on the heels of Russia adopting one of the most draconian anti-gay/anti-trans laws in existence. The new law bans gay “propaganda,” but in practice defines “propaganda” as any statement, oral or otherwise, that is pro-gay.

What that means in practice is that pro-gay words are now illegal in Russia.

Wearing the rainbow flag is illegal (someone was arrested a while back for wearing rainbow suspenders).

Two gay people holding hands in public is now illegal.

Commenting on a public bus to a friend about anything gay-related, that doesn’t suggest that gay is bad, is now illegal.

One could even interpret a landlord renting an apartment to a gay couple, or a bakery selling a wedding cake to a gay couple, as pro-gay propaganda.

MOSCOW - MAY 28: Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. (kojoku /

MOSCOW – MAY 28: Russian police detain a gay rights activist during an attempt to hold the unauthorized gay pride parade on May 28, 2011 in Moscow, Russia. (kojoku /

But it gets worse.  The new anti-gay law has a specific provision giving Russian security forces the right to detain foreign gay and trans people, and people who support anyone gay or trans, for up to 14 days, before they’re deported.  How many gay people, or pro-gay people, attending the Sochi Winter Olympics next February, 2014 are going to be detained in solitary confinement for two weeks because the Russian authorities don’t like minorities?

And just as importantly, what does the International Olympic Committee plan to do about this clear threat to gay and gay-friendly athletes and Olympic guests?  The Russians have made clear that there had better not be anything pro-gay about the Sochi Olympics, going so far as to ban the proposed Pride House that would have housed gay athletes.

Russian police attack gay protesters outside the State Duma today. (Video by Dmitry Zykov)

Russian police attack gay protesters outside the State Duma today. (Video by Dmitry Zykov)

The IOC’s response to the clear violation of the Olympic charter was pathetic at best.  This led Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s top two human rights watchdogs, to pen a rather sharp letter to the IOC about the growing anti-lgbt problem in Russia.

Russia is quickly descending into its old Soviet ways.  And this time, gay and trans people are the latest flavor of dissidents that the Russian government plans to stamp out.

Anyone planning to attend the Sochi Olympics should be concerned about the message they’re sending the increasingly authoritarian neo-Soviet government in Moscow.  And they might just not worry about whether they’re going to get their head bashed in as well.

Russian anti-gay thugs kick an LGBT rights activist. (Photo by Ilya Varlamov, with permission)

Russian anti-gay thugs kick an LGBT rights activist. (Photo by Ilya Varlamov, with permission)

Here’s the full statement from the Russian LGBT groups:



July 2, 2013

By the Russian LGBT Network, LGBT Organization Coming Out (Vyhod), and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality

On June 29, 2013, participants in a peaceful demonstration in support of human rights and equality for people of different sexual orientations and gender identities (the St. Petersburg LGBT Pride Parade) found themselves the subjects of abuse and physical assault at the hands of nationalists.

Having started their attack with vulgar verbal abuse, followers of various nationalist groups soon switched to beating the demonstrators and pelting them with stones and smoke bombs. Police officers at the site failed to act adequately in order to prevent the violence, leaving the demonstration’s participants in the position of having to defend themselves. The demonstrators displayed true courage and strength of spirit in the face of attacks that left many of them with minor or significant injuries. At least seven people were later hospitalized by ambulance.

The attackers planned and coordinated their actions in advance. Among the organizers were groups “Slavyanskaya Sila” (Slavic Power), “Russkaya Probezhka” (Russian Joggers), and others known for their calls for violence against homosexuals, people belonging to “non-Russian’ “ationalities, and antifascists. They justified their actions as acceptable under the new laws banning so-called “homosexual propaganda” (or propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations”) at the regional and federal levels.

Therefore, the events of June 29 at Marsovo Pole, the site for Saturday’s demonstration, confirmed the apprehensions of many human rights defenders that Russia’s newly-enacted homophobic legislation would spur a growth in violence and incite action from neo-Nazi groups. These events could lead tomorrow to tragic consequences for all of society.

Organizers and participants in the demonstration followed all requirements of the law. Their goals and slogans (observance of civil rights for all, a ban on discrimination, fighting against hate crimes, marriage equality, etc.) fully corresponded to the language and spirit of the Russian Constitution. However, St. Petersburg officials and law-enforcement authorities failed to provide for safety at the event and required its termination under far-fetched pretenses, and many participants were roughly detained. In all, nearly 50 of the demonstration’s participants were arrested and forced to spend between four to six hours at police headquarters. One of the event’s organizers was kept in detention until the morning of June 30. These people’s constitutional rights to the freedom of assembly and expression were grossly violated.

In the view of the reluctance and inability of the government to fulfill its obligations to its citizens, civil organizations and individuals who could not remain indifferent to the current situation have united to defend the safety and human dignity of the victims of violence and tyranny.

Activists from the Russian LGBT Network, the LGBT organization Coming Out (Vyhod), the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality, the group Help for the Detainees in St. Petersburg, members of the Public Oversight Commission, the Deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly B. L. Vishnevskiy and many others showed moral support to the detainees, brought them food and water, gathered and distributed information about the situation, and held negotiations with the police. Lawyers of Coming Out and the Russian LGBT Network worked round the clock to provide support to the detainees and the victims of violence who were brought to the hospitals. We are proud of St. Petersburg’s defenders of human rights. Lawyers and psychologists with the LGBT organizations are continuing to provide the participants of the St. Petersburg Gay Pride demonstration the legal and psychological assistance they require. We will absolutely seek justice — that the perpetrators of the attack be held accountable for their actions and that the public authorities’ violation of the people’s rights to freedom of assembly be addressed.

All that has occurred in the last few days has been no isolated or accidental episode. It is the consequence of the tendency towards escalating aggression within far-right groups, which are aware of their impunity to the law and which openly raise the banners of racism, homophobia, and distortion and disregard for the truth. The violence and tyranny that were directed at the participants in the St. Petersburg Gay Pride rally have also demonstrated the growing inability of the government to manage and control these forces. The events of June 29 have proven that only the unity, solidarity, and wisdom of civil society have the power to put a stop to impending tragedy in Russia.

Igor Kochetkov
Russian LGBT Network
[email protected]

Polina Andrianova
LGBT organization Coming Out (Vyhod)
+ 7 (904) 609 9706
[email protected]

Natalia Tsymbalova
Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality, Russia
+7 (906) 2517883
[email protected]

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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65 Responses to “Russian LGBT groups warn of “impending tragedy” as Olympics approach & violence increases”

  1. Sam says:

    My grandpa once told me that when he lived in Poland, rumors about an impending invasion and ethnic cleansing started to arise, all his friends would say that those were lies, that it couldn’t happen there, that Europe was a safe haven for all cultures and beliefs.
    He believed the rumors and got out, he lived to old age. His friends? They died in the camps.
    Don’t go to Russia, don’t stay in Russia.

  2. Whitewitch says:

    Really you reply to a post that is a month old…that clearly didn’t say a WORD about the US legal system being fair or just, just better than Russia. And then tell me to get off my high horse…hello Kettle…Sincerely Pot.

  3. TD says:

    Oh yes, a legal system that continues to systematically sanction either the killing or arresting people or other similar atrocities on the basis of their race, islamaphobia and sexual orientation is oh so “sane.” Cases in point: Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander, Howard Morgan, continuing arrests of gay men in Alabama, legally sanctioned forced sterilisation of female inmates (f.ex. recent case in California), Guantanamo, countless tortured and/or killed prisoners both in the US and in the Middle East. Get off your high horse, the US is no better, it’s just learned to pacify its citizens with a heavy dose of American nationalism.

  4. David Lynd says:

    Insane, nauseating pit of murder. What it really is, is (puck-tin-ism) anti anti just pukeing her venomous regergitation from the bowels of the beast she(puketin&russia) worships! They can’t stand the fact that the world isn’t stagnating in its evolving acceptance of the truth, that ALL ! are unmistakeablly Equal ! Every one is as worthy as the next. Fk the Olympics ! Don’t go anywhere near there (except to gather the POOR GAYS !! Boycott everything russian ! This MEANS WAR !!
    putin..YOU ARE A MURDERER ! YOU SOLVE NOTHING ! And you started paying at birth.
    The beast has chosen you!

  5. karmanot says:

    Obozo, our fierce advocate………………….

  6. Betty McG says:

    There will be a test of the new policy when the FISU Summer University Games start July 6 in Kazan Russia. According to EuroSport TV an estimated 13,500 university students aged 17-28 and officials from 170 nations, 1,500 media people. Second only to the Olympics in size it will run for 11 days. They are elite athletes but of an age group not use to hiding displays of affection. If the FISU is concerned I didn’t find anything noted on their web site.

  7. Zorba says:

    LOL! You can’t be all things to all people.
    Personally, I Iike the animal videos. And Chris’ recipes. They make a nice break.
    I read the Comics, Style and Food sections of the Washington Post, too. Not just the news and editorials. ;-)

  8. Blogvader says:

    People invent some really stupid things to complain about.

  9. Oh and I got an email the other day from someone who just couldn’t continue reading the blog because of the puppy/cat videos. Hmm….

  10. Mwah!

  11. And sometimes we go very gay, and sometimes there isn’t much gay to report at all. The Russia stuff is a big deal, not just because it’s “gay,” but because it’s Russia, and imho, this is a further sign of that country slinking back into darkness, which is a huge deal for the US, and an even bigger deal potentially for Europe.

  12. Butch1 says:

    Ha! Oh don’t give Obama any ideas. That’s all this country needs right now with all this pent up anger. ( Only if he were a participant.. ;-) ) Then you would have to have Boehner, Reid, McConnell, and Putin and a few others to make it interesting.

    I wonder . . . ;-)

    “Let the games begin . . .!!”

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    Both China and Russia have been deformed
    by Stalinism (or Maoism). Stalinism has always been the far right of the
    workers movement, or, as Trotsky described it “the syphilis of the workers

    emerged as a forces in 1920s and was built by the rise of a bureaucratic layer
    in response to shortages and other problems posed by the aftermath of war and invasions
    and embargoes by the US, England, France and the Japanese Empire. It became a
    cancer on the Bolshevik party and metastasized in the 1930’s killing off the
    remnants of the Bolsheviks and Red Army leadership in spectacular show trials
    and purges.

    the American right comprised of Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans, the
    Russian right led by United Russia – Putin’s party – breaks unions, has racist
    and chauvinist policies, bashes civil rights and liberties and is pursuing
    imperial dreams. In terms of LGBT rights Russia and Putin’s Party United Russia
    are very much like the Democrats and Republicans of 1994 who passed DADT and in 1996 passed
    DOMA and gloated about it.

    Clinton is our Putin, rebranded. It will take a decade’s long
    struggle by brothers and sisters in the Russian Federation and the other former
    Soviet Republics to force Putin to rebrand.

  14. Papa Bear says:

    After all, the Hunger Games MUST continue!


  15. Hue-Man says:

    Jian Ghomeshi’s Q radio program on CBC for Wednesday: “Marc Naimark of the Federation of Gay Games on gay athletes heading to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next year.”

    10:00 AM and 10:00 PM in 5 Canadian time zones, podcast on CBC.CA, Sirius XM, and Public Radio International in the U.S.

    Not a word from Canada’s right-wing government, including glass-closeted Foreign Minister.

  16. Butch1 says:

    Is our country going to ban the games? What does our “Fierce Advocate” have to say about this? Is he going to back us and cancel the American participation portion of this? What . . . nothing but crickets coming from the administration? Surely they will stand for our rights . . . Bwaaahhahahaha!!! There’s no fool like an old fool. What was I thinking . . .

  17. Sweetie says:

    America exports terrible homophobia to places like Uganda so leaders can be converted/buttered-up. Why?

    So Exxon Mobil and the like can get special oil deals and other companies can get access to resources at cut rates.

    Faith-based initiatives + tax-exempt status, baby.

  18. lynchie says:

    Part of what makes this blog work is the diversity of people dissenters, trolls, gays and straights and the broad spectrum of postings. If someone is unhappy i suggest they take a break for a while but consider the quality of the postings by fellow bloggers. I don’t agree with all, but I respect their opinion and try to understand their point of view.

  19. Sweetie says:

    Godwin’s so-called “law” really should be restated as:

    “When someone draws a parallel between Nazism and contemporary bad behavior, it’s vital to pretend that Nazis were very special people and thus their behavior was completely aberrational. Moreover, the Nazis had absolutely no support from the general public anywhere, having come to power purely due to evil emanations from the ionosphere.”

  20. karmanot says:

    And here, I thought you had the decency to pull your own reactionary and insulting comments.

  21. emjayay says:

    Some sites let you see the pulled comments if you click on them. I’m always curious of course, but also I trust John A.

  22. emjayay says:

    Of course if you are an athelete who has been training your whole life and you have an opportunity to go to any Olympics, you are going to go under any circumstances. In a lot of sports you don’t have that long of a window of opportunity. So I don’t blame any gay athletes for going to these games. Um, is it going to include figure skating?
    Anyway, I do hope that gay athletes competing will figure out some gay protest stuff to do. I don’t expect anyone to do anything until after competing. It’s not like anyone in a judged event are going to do anything to negatively impact their score. And no one wants their shins, or head, battered with a club before they have a chance to compete.

  23. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Ah, John’s in another of his little thin-skinned authoritarian meltdowns, where he childishly yanks down every comment by someone who dares to challenge him.

  24. Skeptical Cicada says:

    LOL!!!! John rants and raves about Russian suppression of speech as he deletes legitimate criticism of his exploitation of gay-bashing. He’s such a thin-skinned hypocrite with his own little authoritarian personality disorder.

  25. FLL says:

    There needs to be a heavy presence of mainstream media and progressive media at the Winter Olympics. That’s not to say that the Russian government might not ban individual journalists, newspapers and media organizations that it sees as a threat to its current anti-gay pogroms. I think I’m using the word “pogrom” accurately—people are getting their heads bashed for demonstrating against the anti-gay law or waving the rainbow flag in public. I’m sure the current law would bar any journalist from a gay/lesbian publication from entering Russia to cover the Olympics. If the Russian government bars media individuals, organizations or newspapers based on its anti-gay laws and policies, that itself should become the international news story.

    What we’re seeing today is a neo-Soviet system of repression with the admixture of fundamentalist Russian Orthoxdox Christianity and free-market economics. Vladimir Putin is publicly identified as being Russian Orthodox and pushes for increased official ties between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church. I suppose he’s abandoned the official atheism of his KGB days. What a bag of snakes. Definitely something for progressives anywhere to keep at arm’s length.

  26. VUnearithe42 says:

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

    Actually, I don’t give a flip
    about Snowden, sorry. I just find John’s exploitation of gay-bashing to
    advance a right-wing Snowden agenda disgusting.

  27. Stev84 says:

    Or like Stalinists. Hitler and Stalin were two sides of the same coin.

  28. Zorba says:

    No kidding.
    I have a Russian-born friend who managed to leave there and get educated here and is now a citizen and works here.
    His perspective on Russia is enlightening.
    And oh, by the way, when Putin first took over as P.M. after the whole Yeltsin thing, my Russian friend said “Putin is a KGB thug.” He didn’t trust him then, and I guess he was right.

  29. tea and me says:

    why they behaving like old nazis? yikes thought russia was on a wake up call damn i was wrong …. but they are cursed

  30. Zorba says:

    Thanks, K, but this dude didn’t even make any sense whatsoever.
    I don’t agree with everything John says, but I also realize that it’s his blog, he can write about what he feels is important, and he and his other writers cover a lot of stuff that I do want to read and learn about. And sometimes, yes, be amused about, even if it involves baby ducks, or puppies, or great recipes. ;-)

  31. karmanot says:

    You Go Zorba!!!! :-)

  32. Vlad says:


  33. Zorba says:

    What in the ever-loving f*ck are you taking about? Lots of stories are being told here. Sorry if they don’t meet your particular specifications. If you don’t like what you see here, go away and start your own f*cking blog.

  34. Indigo says:

    and spying on the EU!

  35. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Yes, I agree with that, just not with using it to go after leakers.
    It seems like any gay athlete would seriously have to question whether he or she could safely go to the games. The IOC should never have put them in that position.
    How about simultaneously letting gay athletes compete in the same events at a location outside Russia?

  36. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I agree, but you have to insulate against spillover. When another of his cartoonish rants about Snowden links to this post, like his prior one did to an earlier post here on the gay-rights issue, I’d prefer that it be clear to anyone following the link that John is NOT speaking for most gays in linking the two issues.

    You also have to be careful that the emphasis isn’t getting skewed–as in focusing almost exclusively on Russia and very little on the IOC–because the former advances the Snowden agenda while the latter might be more important from a gay-rights perspective.

  37. karmanot says:

    Boycott the Russian Olympics! YES….. Russia, the new Uganda. To put athletes, staff and visitors in harms way speaks to the absolute vacuity and lack of IOC moral values.

  38. pliny says:

    Dude, I disagree with John about Snowden too, but you make your common cause where you find it…

  39. karmanot says:

    Handing the baton over to Monoceros today—-good luck! :-)

  40. karmanot says:

    Is drinking the liquid potato too

  41. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Thanks much for that detailed perspective on China. As I’ve made clear, I think there’s an ulterior motive behind John oddly putting China at the top of the anti-gay list.

  42. Naja pallida says:

    It is actually very disingenuous to put China on that list at all. Despite their authoritarian government, China has made a lot more movement on gay rights in the last few years than one would expect them to. They could very easily be like Iran and just make a declaration that gay people don’t exist in their country, but they haven’t. They’ve repealed their anti-sodomy laws, and removed homosexuality from their list of mental illnesses. About 30% of the people in the major cities are for gay marriage, and while they’re not likely going to allow gay marriage any time soon, Beijing municipality recently started allowing the partners of gay residents to apply for dependent residency status. Something Hong Kong was already allowing. Government officials have stated that they’re not quite there yet on this kind of social issue, but believe it is basically inevitable. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them make significant strides in the next few years. But really, there is no comparison at all with most of Africa, or most of the Middle East, where being gay, or engaging in gay sex, or in some cases even discussing topics which could be considered of a gay nature, are outright illegal. Many with absolutely brutal punishments.

  43. Skeptical Cicada says:

    His objective is all about Russia, so he can use this post to advance his craziness on his NSA blog about Russia harboring Snowden.

  44. karmanot says:

    and abortion! don’t forget the debt AND abortion!

  45. nicho says:

    Russia is bad. Bad Russia. Bad Russia. Obama killed a 10-year-old boy with a drone. Discuss.

  46. BeccaM says:

    The IOC is all about the Benjamins and their charter has been meaningless for decades.

    Lest we forget (and at the risk of going all Godwin), this is the same organization that saw no problem with hosting the games in Berlin in 1936 and would have done it again with Japan in 1940 had WW2 not broken out.

  47. nicho says:

    You could try Free Republic

  48. pliny says:

    You’re letting the IOC off a little lightly here, I think. This law didn’t come out of nowhere.They’ve had time to formulate a response. Their current lack of one should be construed as support of their current host nation’s policies.

    They’re perfect happy to watch gays get bashed as long as the cash keeps flowing. No one should ever forget it.

  49. DWD says:

    So, not to be a malcontent and all: do I have to go to Americablog Gay to get news that does not concern being gay?

    I am as interested as the next person but there are LOTS of stories that need to be told.

    You know?

  50. Brad says:

    It will be very interesting to see how the U.S. handles this. Russia is threatening to imprison and deport any foreign citizen for simply being gay. So our athletes are in threat if they participate in the Olympics. This should prompt a withdrawal from the games by our country. If we had team members who were in threat from a hosting government over their race, we would find that intolerable the decline to participate. Will we do that for sexual orientation? I think we should.

  51. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Feel free to click on that little “x” and close your browser. There, all better now. No more having to think.

  52. milli2 says:

    What century is Russia living in?

  53. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Actually, I don’t give a flip about Snowden, sorry. I just find John’s exploitation of gay-bashing to advance a right-wing Snowden agenda disgusting.

  54. gaylib says:

    Whose fixation? Pot meet kettle.

  55. Monoceros Forth says:

    “As many as I feel appropriate.” We’re doomed. Oh, and repeating “paleo-conservative” ten billion times doesn’t make it any truer a label.

  56. cole3244 says:

    religious zealotry and stupidity trump common sense and tolerance every time, lack of education and intellect keeps attitudes like this alive and thriving in a world of ignorance and intolerance.

  57. Skeptical Cicada says:

    As many as I feel appropriate. How much interference will you be running for John’s paleo-conservative fixation? It’s too bad that he now has an ulterior agenda.

  58. Monoceros Forth says:

    Who’s doing the unmotivated cross-referencing here? Not to mention the clumsy insults. I wonder how many more times on this one page you’re going to repeat the same allegations. EDIT: Twice more now…

  59. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I note that John’s two examples–Russia and China–happen to the the two countries involved in protecting Snowden. But since when did China top the list of anti-gay nations? It’s no gay haven, but wouldn’t a response from a purely gay perspective have cited, say, Uganda, Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia? China doesn’t have a kill-the-gays bill. The whole Snowden affair has seemingly flipped John into some weird Cold War paleo-conservatism. Sorry, but the states that were aligned with “Free World” against the Commies don’t happen to perfectly coincide with the ones good on gays today.

  60. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’m concerned for the athletes. The other day, Towleroad had an article about The Front Runner. I haven’t thought of that book for ages, but it’s mention gave me a spine shiver.

  61. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Because of John’s own exploitation of these gay bashings to advance his paleo-conservative fixation on Snowden ( ), we now cannot be sure whether he’s giving this matter attention out of genuine concern for gay rights or because he just wants to use posts like this to further advance his paleo-conservative agenda re Snowden. He cross-references this post in another cartoonish Snowden rant in 5…4…3…2…

  62. Indigo says:

    We have more than our fair share of crazy fundamentalist Christians right here in the good old U.S. of A. but those Russian Orthodox Christians go right over the top. I wonder how much longer the old-fashioned Marxists (the ones who didn’t go capitalist like Putin) will go along with that kind of social madness? Meanwhile, I think we have no choice, Boycott the Russian Olympics!

  63. Skeptical Cicada says:

    You compromised your moral voice on this topic when you chose to exploit these gay bashings to advance your paleo-conservative fixation on Snowden:

  64. Yep, as bad as some people feel it is here, we dont hold a candle to some places like China and Russia.

  65. Whitewitch says:

    So glad I live in the US…crazy people are everywhere I guess…but at least we have some sanity prevailing here.

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