Russian LGBT activists call for Sochi protests Feb. 7

Amsterdam protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Amsterdam protest in April 2013 against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A group of Russian LGBT rights organization and their supporters have called for worldwide protests against the country’s ongoing anti-gay crackdown on Feb. 7, the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The group also asks for pressure on the corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics to speak out against the homophobic “anti-gay propaganda” law and for sports fans and athletes to protest at the Olympics. Sponsors include Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Adecco, Visa and McDonald’s.

The appeal comes at a time when it is increasingly obvious that calls for a relocation of the Olympics from Sochi or a boycott of the winter games have fallen short.

The groups also supported further protests during international visits by homophobic Russian celebrities or officials, such as the demonstrations against Russian President Vladimir Putin in April in Germany and the Netherlands.

They also asked for support for activists facing persecution in Russia, including those who decide to seek asylum abroad.

This is the statement issued by Rainbow Association, a Moscow-based LGBT activist group; March for Equality, an LGBT and women’s rights campaign; the
Russian LGBT Sport Federation; the Committee for a Workers’ International (Russia); the Left Socialist Action; and the Pussy Riot Support Group:

Dear friends, Russia’s recent law banning the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ is a huge attack on civil rights and freedoms in our country. The government is trying to divide society and draw public attention away from many pressing social and political issues which exist in this country.

The government is using existing prejudices to turn LGBTQ people into convenient scapegoats. Its actions have provoked violence against LGBTQ people and criminalised protests against this repression. Some LGBTQ activists have been forced to flee to other cities or even abroad due to government pressure and continuing threats from the far right.

Pussy Riot members in Moscow cell in 2012. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty photo courtesy of Amnesty International)
Pussy Riot members in Moscow cell in 2012. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

In addition to attacking LGBTQ people, the government is also attacking the rights of women, atheists and religious minorities, persecuting immigrants and the political opposition. Members of the activist band Pussy Riot have already been imprisoned for over one and a half year for their protest, and nearly thirty other people, including an LGBTQ activist, are currently being tried based on falsified charges of ‘mass public disorder.’

Russia is not, however, just the corrupt and authoritarian regime of Putin and his clique. Russia is over 140 million people, most of whom want to see change. After the rigged elections of 2012, thousands of people came out to join mass protests in the streets in cities and towns across Russia. Many LGBTQ activists were involved in these protests and were met with compassion and understanding from many other protesters.

You can support our fight against discrimination, authoritarianism and repression and for equal rights, freedom and genuine democracy in Russia!

We call for:

– Protests in front of Russia’s embassies, consulates or other locations on the day of the Sochi Olympic Games opening ceremony on 7 February 2014;
– Pressure on the corporate sponsors and suppliers of the 2014 Sochi Olympics – such as Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Procter&Gamble, Microsoft, Adecco, Visa, McDonald’s, etc. – to express publicly and explicitly their position regarding this homophobic law;
– Sports fans to organize solidarity actions when attending the Olympics;
– Athletes participating at the Olympics to express their support in statements or symbolically;
– Activists and allies in different countries to organize campaigns demanding protection against persecution for the athletes who choose to protest against homophobia and neglect of human rights in Russia from the Olympic committees,
– People all over the world to demand a change in the rules of the Olympics that limit the right to protest against discrimination,
– Support for the activists facing persecution in Russia, including those who have to seek asylum in the EU and other countries,
– Protests during international visits of Russian officials or celebrities which are known for their homophobic views.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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