Ukrainian protesters and Peter Tatchell heckle Russian conductor Valery Gergiev in Trafalgar Square

On 11 May 2014, a couple of dozens of Ukrainians supported by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell protested against Russian conductor Valery Gergiev at the opening of the free open air concert by the London Symphony Orchestra in Trafalgar Square.

2014-05-11 18.44.16This was the second time the protesters and Tatchell targeted Gergiev, having previously held a rally in front of the Barbican concert hall. This was also not the first time that Russian cultural image in the West was tainted by the negative consequences of Putin’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine. Just the day before, during the Eurovision song contest, the Russian performance was repeatedly booed by the audience, as well as were the presenters of the countries who gave Russia high scores, and the Russian presenter herself.

Ukrainians gradually gathered in front of the stage in the square ahead of the LSO concert. The activists managed to get past security Ukrainian flags and posters shaming Gergiev for his support of Putin regime and annexation of Crimea.

There was a little confusion in the beginning when it was announced that Gergiev suffered a bad fall the day before, but was coming to the concert later. Soon, however, he appeared on the stage and was immediately greeted by jeers and boos. Ukrainians stood up facing the crowd, unfolded their flags and posters, including a big one reading ‘Gergiev supports war in Ukraine’, and chanted ‘Shame on you!’ for a couple of minutes, while the conductor couldn’t start his work.

2014-05-11 18.44.26The public reacted by taking photos of the protesters. A few tweets with a hashtag #lsoopenair were posted mentioning the rally. A Russian-speaking woman standing in front of the protesters started shouting ‘Shut up!’ and grabbing the protesters’ arms and flags.

2014-05-11 18.44.38Security guards appeared in a moment and forcefully pushed the Ukrainians out of the square, tearing some of their posters, and filming them on cameras. The group then spent some time standing with flags and posters on the edge of the square.

2014-05-11 18.53.20

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