A regional daily columnist has come under fire from a gay news website which claimed he had “mocked” a protest in Russia by two gay activists.
Shropshire Star writer Peter Rhodes wrote a piece about Richard and Rochelle Cohen, who staged a small protest in the Russian city of St Petersburg about the country’s new anti-gay laws.
Peter wrote that “bravery ain’t what it used to be” after the couple were praised by actor and presenter Stephen Fry for having photos taken of themselves with an A4 poster which stated “Gay OK!”
But his piece has been criticised by Richard Cohen in a story by Pink News, run by the couple’s son Benjamin Cohen, which also claimed that Peter has made previous anti-gay comments regarding same-sex marriage.
In the column, Peter wrote: “Bravery ain’t what it used to be. A national newspaper devoted a big feature to Richard and Rochelle Cohen whose son runs a gay news website.
“On a cruise in St Petersburg, the Cohens took a pen and wrote a little A4 poster declaring “Gay OK!” They then took pictures of themselves holding it in the city.
“They didn’t write it in Russian and carefully avoided police, and admitted it was ‘only a little protest’ against Russia’s anti-gay policies.
“For this act they have been lauded by the great national treasure Stephen Fry as ‘brave and good parents.’ Not exactly the Hungarian Uprising, is it?”
Hitting back at the comments, Mr Cohen wrote: “I’m extremely disappointed at the mocking tone of the Shropshire Star’s column.
“I am well aware that our protest wasn’t the most daring piece of gay rights activism that anyone has ever taken part in. However, the point is that even us holding the A4 piece of paper that the newspaper mocked could be considered illegal in Russia because of its horrendous new anti-gay laws.”
In response to the Pink News story, Peter told HTFP: “I believe Shropshire Star readers know me as a fair and reasonable columnist.
“I was pleased to see from the response that even among Pink News readers there is a measure of support for this item.”