As Olympic Games Begin, Protesters Slam Russia’s LGBT Crackdown

Protesting human rights abuses at the Russian Consulate on February 6. (Photo via Queer Nation NY)

Protesting human rights abuses at the Russian Consulate on February 6. (Photo from Queer Nation NY via Gay City News)

As athletes arrived in Sochi from around the world, protesters took to the streets of New York to express outrage over Russia’s LGBT crackdown.

Human rights activists and LGBT groups have vehemently denounced the Sochi games in the wake of legislation Russia enacted last June, which outlawed public discussion of homosexuality. Kidnappings, rape, torture and murder of LGBT individuals have proliferated in the country.

Gay City News reported on some of New York City’s major demonstrations.

On February 6 Queer Nation, which has been leading protests against Russia since last summer, staged a demonstration outside the Russian Consulate on 91st Street. An estimated 100 protesters attended, some covering their faces with Putin masks and dumping blood on Olympic flags.

Queer Nation has lambasted the International Olympic Committee for violating its own charter by holding the games in Sochi. The group has also gone after Olympic sponsors for reaping profits while turning a blind eye to anti-LGBT hate crimes. In a press release on the group’s behalf, Queer Nation member Ken Kidd said:

“We’ve focused on NBC and major Olympic sponsors like Coke and McDonalds, who pay lip service to equality while profiting from inequality and ignoring Putin’s human rights atrocities. Now we’re once again laying our message right on Putin’s doorstep. The whole world is watching – literally. Putin can’t hide his pogrom behind the sports page.”

Gay City News reported that Queer Nation’s protests have been multi-pronged, targeting Russian vodka Stolichnaya, Russian investment forums and the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall’s performances by conductor Valery Gergiev and opera singer Anna Netrebko – both supporters of Putin.

Queer Nation has taken its protests online as well, Gay City News reported.

Scott Wooledge took a lead role last month in hijacking McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Twitter hashtag, which critics of the Sochi Games used to demand that Olympic sponsors denounce Russia’s anti-gay law. Since then, he and other activists created a parody sight, CheersToSochi.org to lampoon McDonald’s CheersToSochi.com.

Other groups have been rallying against Russia’s human rights abuses too. On February 5, All Out organized international protests against the Sochi Olympics and Olympic sponsors, including one outside the McDonald’s in Times Square. Protesters brandished signs with McDonald’s and Coca-Cola logos reading “Olympic Sponsors Speak Out Now.”

Farther uptown, on February 6, members of the Axios Eastern Orthodox Christians church group also protested Russia’s hateful laws next to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

On an even more sweeping scale, Gay City News noted, Google seemed to be sending its own “don’t be evil” message to the Russian government, with its combined gay pride and Olympic-themed homepage.

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