A liberal political group trying to rally its members to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia asked Spokane residents Wednesday to petition their City Council to cut “sister city” ties to a Russian city.
MoveOn.org briefly had Spokane on a list of 27 cities for which it was pushing petitions to punish the Russians for threatening to enforce laws against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
There was just one little problem...
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The group was too late with a petition campaign for Spokane to kick Makhachkala out of its family of sister cities. About 20 years too late: The two cities adopted each other as sister cities with some flourish in 1987, but severed ties in the mid 1990s for practical not political reasons.
Makhachkala is in the Dagestan Republic, near Chechnya. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the region became so unstable that officials of the two cities couldn’t communicate for three years. A Spokane delegation that travelled to the city for a woman’s rights conference in 1994 was fired on during its drive from the airport into the city. The letter from Spokane to Makhachkala informing the Dagestanis of plans to end the relationship wasn’t answered for nine months. By then the council had already voted a formal “dasvidaniya” to the whole relationship.
Brett Abrams, a publicist for MoveOn.org, said the Spokane petition and those for other cities were proposed by members in those communities. The Spokane petition was taken down later in the day by the member who posted it.
No explanation was given for removing the petition, but the fact that Makhachkala and Spokane are no longer sister cities “could very well be the reason,” he said.
MoveOn encouraged members to post petitions on its web site, but didn’t double check to see if the petitions were for cities with existing relationships, Abrams said.
He offered to put us in touch with someone from Bellingham or Yakima (which he pronounced "Yuh KEE muh") but we passed.