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Gay activists in Amsterdam protest Russian policy

BY TOBY STERLING, ASSOCIATED PRESS

AMSTERDAM -- More than 2,000 gay rights supporters protested in Amsterdam's largest square Sunday, carrying signs, singing songs and chanting slogans to condemn the Russian government'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 Sunday their main concern is the 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 hoped the protest would send the message to Moscow that "love is not propaganda."

Afterward in an interview with The Associated Press, 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 performing 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."

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