tonight on a special edition of "nightline" -- this could be the final act at this bustling nightclub. why? because of this -- with the world focused on the winter olympics in sochi, what you're not seeing is another russia far from the spotlight. we go underground where gay people are under siege. >> people have been shot at? >> it was. >> and also been water attacks, maybe a gas attack. >> meet the young men who feel like outcasts in their own homeland. >> they should be stoned to death like god ordered.
good evening. and thanks for joining us. i'm dan abram ps in the months leading up to the olympics in sochi, russia's anti-gay propaganda laws were in the spotlight. but what do those laws mean for the people actually living there? we traveled to russia to find out what it reelsly like to be gay in moscow. the answer? it can be ugly, violence, persecution and worse. we spent months inside and often underground for a special edition of "nightline" moscow is burning. >> what a show russia is putting
on. the 22nd winter olympic games. personal triumph of for vladimir putin and the russia he rules. but there is another russia far away from the spotlight where we heard a very different story. >> whew! >> reporter: this is central station in downtown moscow, russia's largest gay nightclub. here, gays have come for years to meet friends, maybe fall in and out of love. and enjoy their own show. the famous, flamboyant drug performance. ♪ i need a hero ♪ holding on for a hero till the end of the night ♪ >> reporter: but now, the curtain may be about to fall here for good because one by
one, the people here who feel like outcasts in their own homeland are being forced to flee this sanctuary. as we learned when we visited just before the olympics began, to be young, gay and russian is a struggle every single day. >> here, you can't even go outside and say outloud if you're gay. and it's not only forbidden. it can be dangerous for you. >> reporter: alexei sf 20 years old. he's soft spoken, intelligent, a young man who knows exactly who he is. >> i'm 100% gay. alexei, that's not his real name, works at central station as one of the drag performers. he's a star in this galaxy of the disdaidisdain. >> i am a drag queen for six months. and i'm not bad drag queen. >> reporter: another performer
here, 21-year-old victor, also not his real name, is backstage, too. >> russian politics consider gay [ bleep ] up. you can leave for another country or you can die. >> reporter: at central station for a few hours, they are free. >> it's the only place we can do anything we want. you see, we are dressed like we want, we do everything we want. we kiss everybody we want. we are free here. >> reporter: but tonight, this very night could be their last act. why? just look at these images posted online. [ bleep ] [ bleep ] gay rights protests turning ugly and violent. [ shouting ]
gay activists beaten by those who oppose them. those who speak up detained and sentenced. gay teens lured online and tortured by vigilantes. all the violence comes in the wake of a controversial new law in russia, a law that bans so-called propaganda of nontraditional relationships to minors. human rights activists sate's really just a crackdown on gay rights. all under the cover of protecting children from the supposed dangers of gay people living their lives openly. the result, an intense anti-gay climate in the country. and that's why with we're here in moscow. to see for ourselves how this rare place of freedom for the gay community is now under siege. take a look at this. in the door, bullet holes.
>> and above the door, a huge sign hung up by a gang of men one night. gay club entrance, it says. ensuring no one comes here anonymously. >> security is tight at the club now. to get in, you go through this door here. and then this iron gate was added after the attacks. the fear is justified. there have been more than 20 attacks on central station, according to the management. and alexei has witnessed many of them. >> has the club been shot at? >> it was. >> reporter: and there have also been water attacks? >> yes. >> reporter: maybe a gas attack? they tore up the roof? >> yes. >> reporter: it sounds incredible, but the manager of the club took us on a tour. >> premise to water attacks. >> reporter: pointing out damage from the attacks and telling us things are getting worse. >> i cannot say all time the situation was very good.
but not very bad as now. >> reporter: in november, two armed men tried to break their way into the club. the scuffle seen here on a security camera video. as if that weren't scary enough, throughout november and december, the manager says the ventilation system was rigged to attack patrons with water and sometimes toxic gas. he says there have been more than eight such gas attacks, forcing hundreds of clubgoers to evacua evacuate. a klemm chem caical report show hydrogen sulfide, a gas that can be deadly, was found in the dance room. in amounts 75 times higher than russian safety standards. >> everyone scared. eert victor says he's fed up the attacks have gone seemingly unchecked. fighting for human rights in russia, he says, means risking your life. >> if you think maybe i change something and you go on the street and say what the [ bleep ] you doing, man.
you could get killed. it's normal in russia. >> reporter: but he won't be a vict victim. >> if you're scared, you're weak. >> reporter: so here at central station, victor and alexei and the others do something that is actually, when you think about it, pretty brave. they transform themselves into defiant drag queens and perform. somehow alexei tells us, in a society where gays are so hated, drag is empowering. >> reporter: for me, drag makes me much more powerful, much more maybe beautiful. >> reporter: you have to understand. almost everyone in here is in the closet, keeping their sket of who they truly are from almost everyone in their lives. that is why central station is so important. this place means a lot to all of you. it's a space where you can be yourselves. >> absolutely free.
absolutely happy. >> reporter: but outside, the danger is always there. on the street, a constant presence. the mysterious morality patrol. monitoring the club, who comes, who es. videotaping the patrons and staff. >> because they're trying to make us uncomfortable to hide, not to go out. >> reporter: we rode with them one night and they denied they were there to harass or expose gay people. >> translator: we just want people to know that the gay community is there, because underaged kids could be tempted to go there. so we just want the younger generation to be able to make a choice that you can develop in different ways. >> reporter: they say they also provide safety for guests. and they denied association with any of the attacks. >> reporter: if we were responsible for this, we could not possibly be the morality patrol. >> reporter: instead, the patrol suggested, it's extremist anti-gay groups who are responsible, pointing out that many local groups disapprove of
gay clubs and homosexuals. >> translator: believe me, they have enough enemies around here. >> reporter: in a back alley in moscow, we met some of the most extreme anti-gay activists, members of a radical orthodox christian group called god's will. >> translator: homosexuality is no different than pedophilia, necrophilia. it's a plague. it's a virus that needs to be destroyed. >> god's will are confident they have majority support in russia, a deeply conservative country, even for their most extreme ideas. >> we want to introduce death penalty for those who want to promote homosexuality. they should be stoned to death like god ordered. >> reporter: they tell us they deeply oppose gay clubs but they don't attack them. whatever the source, danger looms all around the club. look at this. 50 armed men storm the property
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we're underground at the biggest gay club in moscow, a refuge for many young people who feel persecuted in their own country. a safe haven for the gay community is often not safe at all. there have been gas attacks, beatings, shootings, and now a new threat that's causing some to flee the country. here again is abc's terry moran. >> reporter: at moscow's central station, moscow's largest gay nightclub, it's just another night. quiet conversations and over the top drag shows. but there's a sense the curtain is coming down on the shows, on the scene, on this island of freedom for gays in vladimir putin's increasingly oppressive
russia. the club has been under attack, including this terrifying incident. just two days before we arrived, the club manager tells us a group of 50 men strong armed their way on to the property, as you see in this video. they went upstairs, destroyed the roof, stole property, and then started shooting. few russians speak out ainst the persecution of gays. some even seem to condone it. we spoke with an orthodox christian group dedicated to what they consider russian family values and firmly opposed to what they call gay propaganda. >> there have been many acts of violence against gay people in russia. do you condemn all violence against gay people here? >> translator: these acts of violence are common. it's just part of our everyday life. i don't condemn it and i don't
think of it. i try to understand it. >> reporter: some politicians are even harsher. we want to st. petersburg to find out what an early architect of the anti-gay law thinks of central station. >> disgusting toilet, you know? waste place. i should say that they should be thankful for our very patient society that we allow them to exist. >> milanov told us he believes reports of attacks on the club were all lies. and how does he justify a law that has brought so much pain and harassment to so many russians? >> to be publicly gay is not illegal. it's immoral. it's disgusting for a majority of people. because it's unnatural. it's a shame. it's a sin. it's called sodomy in the most civilized countries.
>> reporter: at central station, all the hate, all the attacks, all the relentless pressure, it's all taking a terrible toll. the show, it seems, can't go on. one club manager has already left for washington, d.c. and is seeking asylum in the united states. backstage, everything is changing, too. victor, who started his drag career here is leaving, heading to san francisco for good. >> my mother say me, go for america, because you can live like normal people. here, you can't. here is dangerous, because here is russia. >> reporter: tonight is victor's final performance. ♪ >> reporter: backstage, victor
has a guest. >> it's my sister. she's really sad because i'm going to san francisco. >> i'm sad because my brother leave me and he's my one frien four, five days ago, i was in some cafe and some man saw me and said that gay is terrible. he should die. and i just called my brother and said i really think you should leave moscow and russia. he will be happy in the usa. >> reporter: a family and a family of friends torn apart. >> i think my brother is gay and
it's normal. and i love him so much. >> reporter: and alexei, he will leave, too, he says. >> i don't feel like russia can be better, seriously. i am saving my money to move from russia. and that's the only thing i can do now. >> reporter: and so as the world celebrates in sochi, this group of young people in this space they've made. they don't care much. ♪ no, no, no, no, >> reporter: they've got their own show. tonight, this night, they are all here in their russia in central station. young, defiant, queer, free. >> i want to be free and i want to be doing what i want.
>> reporter: for "nightline," i'm terry moran in moscow. >> thanks to terry for that terrific report. next, a man accused of shooting an unarmed teen over loud music waits for a jury's verdict. now we know more about what the jurors are thinking. stay with us. spokesperson: we decided to settle this. a steel cage death match of midsize sedans. the volkswagen passat against all comers. turbocharged engines against...engines. best in class rear legroom against other-class legroom. but then we realized. consumers already did that. twice. huh. maybe that's why nobody else showed up. how does one get out of a death cage? vo: right now, get 0.9% apr on all passat models plus a total of $1000 in bonuses.
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>> the jury in the trial of michael dunn, accused of shooting an unarmed teen over loud music in a florida parking lot called it a night after three days of deliberations with no verdict. but the sequestered jurors sent the judge a question that indicates some dissension about one of the charges. >> the second question is this -- is it possible to not reach a verdict on one count and reach a verdict on other counts. the answer to that is yes. >> reporter: dunn is charged with five counts, including first degree murder for killing 17-year-old jordan davis. he claims it was self-defense. the jury could be deadlocked on whether to convict of a lesser
or included defense like second degree murder or manslaughter. they'll resume deliberations on saturday. tune into good morning america tomorrow. as always, we're on line at abc news.com. have a great weekend. good night. [whistling] you're pretty happy, aren't you? [whistles] gotta go to florida next week to cover the pga. might have to play a few rounds myself.