Activists Disrupt “Road to Sochi” Events Amid Olympic Safety Concerns

Activists protesting at Boston's "Road to Sochi" Boston Common event
Activists protesting at Boston's "Road to Sochi" Boston Common event

Boston, MA (January 10, 2013) — Three members of Queer Nation and GetEqual Massachusetts disrupted the opening event of the US Olympic Committee’s Road to Sochi tour stop in Boston, inquiring about the safety of LGBT Olympians, spectators & Russians.

Activists were left with unanswered concerns during the Boston Globe’s  “Countdown to Sochi” event as a panel of U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) members dodged the multiple questions David Hamburger of Queer Nation asked regarding the International Olympic Committee’s Charter forbidding human rights violations in host countries. USOC panel representatives admitted Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws violate the Olympic Charter, but claimed LGBT people are not considered a protected class under the IOC.

In June, the Russian government enacted legislation banning any LGBT propaganda, effectively restricting any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. Yesterday, the U.S State Department released a travel advisory for LGBT people traveling to Russia effective until March 24th, highlighting the “broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda.’

The Q&A session concluded with Sasha Kaufmann of GetEqual Massachusetts disrupting the panel asking, “How can you reassure that I won’t be arrested as an out gay person at Sochi?” Two-time Olympic medalist Picabo Street answered, “We are Americans; we don’t live in Russia...I would take you under my arm. We will experience the Olympic games together, and have a wonderful time.” When Kaufman asked about what would happen to her Russian gay brothers and sisters after the games are complete, Street followed the panel’s uncomfortable silence with, “I don’t know. Hopefully, nothing.”  

As security moved in, Hamburger stood up to ask similar questions. Both activists were evicted from the event.

“We are not only worried about the safety of those attending the Sochi Olympics next month, in light of the state department’s recent travel advisory for LGBT spectators and athletes,” said Kaufmann, “But we are extremely concerned about the path of destruction the International Olympic Committee will leave behind on LGBT Russians once the games are over.”

The disruption of the kick-off events concluded with activists unfurling a 40-foot rainbow banner reading “Boycott Homophobia” just feet away from the main event’s stage in Boston Common, chanting “USOC, protect LGBTs” and “Don’t believe Putin’s lies” for roughly 15 minutes. The zap is the latest in a series of high-profile protests against the Sochi Olympics and its sponsors, including petition deliveries to Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and confrontation of the USOC at the Countdown to Sochi kickoff event in Times Square this past October.

Videos of the zaps are available at http://bit.ly/GeMASochi

Queer Nation is a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. Website: www.queernationny.org. Twitter: @QueerNationNY. Facebook: Facebook.com/qn.newyork.

GetEQUAL Massachusetts is a state-based chapter of GetEQUAL,a group working to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, holding accountable those who stand in the way. Website: www.getequalma.org; Twitter: @GetEqualMA; Facebook; http://bit.ly/GetEqualMass;


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