TV star Paul O’Grady speaks out at Russia protest in London
All Out petition with 131,447 signatures handed to McDonalds
Russian national anthem played. Mass salute with P6 sign
London - 6 February 2014
Three hundred Londoners braved atrocious weather and a transport strike to rally last night (5 February) in Whitehall in solidarity with Russian LGBTs against the country’s anti-gay law and escalating homophobic violence.
They urged governments and Olympic sponsors to speak out in support of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination.
All Out announced at the rally that its petition making this demand had secured 131,447 signatures.
Details of the petition were delivered to the Whitehall branch of McDonalds by Marie Campbell and Peter Tatchell. The hand over was accepted by the company’s head of communications in the UK, Ray Farrelly.
As the Russian national anthem was played, the crowd saluted with five fingers and a thumb to make the Principle 6 sign. There was a live performance by music artists Ooberfuse.
The protesters chanted: “2-4-6-8. Putin, stop the hate. 3-5-7-9. LGBTs are mighty fine.”
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Gathering by the Montgomery statute in Whitehall, the crowd heard TV star Paul O’Grady (aka Lily Savage) denounce President Putin as a “tyrant” and condemn Russia’s anti-gay law as “shocking” and “appalling”. He also joked about the “homoerotic” pin up photos of Putin riding bare-chested on horseback; suggesting that the Russian president seemed to have issues with his sexuality and might well be a closet case.
There were also speeches from Marie Campbell from All Out, Labour MP Chris Bryant, Liberal Democrat peer Liz Barker, Edwin Sesange of African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, Wilson Chowdhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, performance artist Jonny Woo and Peter Tatchell.
Timed two days before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the protest was part of a Global Speak Out against Russian homophobia that took place in 20 cities around the world on 5 February.
The London protest was organised by the international LGBT pressure group, All Out, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Our protest urged the British and Russian governments, and the International Olympic Committee, to uphold Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination. We also called on Olympic corporate sponsors - such as Coca Cola, McDonalds and Visa - to speak out against Russia's anti-gay law and homophobic violence. So far, they have failed to do so,” noted protest co-organiser and speaker, Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“We want government leaders from around the world to boycott the opening and closing ceremonies at Sochi. Empty VIP seats would be an effective gesture to show President Putin that his crackdown on the gay community is an unacceptable abuse of human rights.
“None of the Olympic corporate sponsors have explicitly condemned the Russian anti-gay law or homophobic violence in Russia. They’ve made only general, vague equality statements. This isn’t adequate. Instead of standing up for human rights, they seem more interested in maintaining their Russian profits and kow-towing to the Kremlin.
"I would have expected them to make a simple statement such as: 'We are deeply concerned about new Russian legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community. We deplore the homophobic violence that is taking place in Russia.' It is shameful and cowardly that they feel unable to say this.
“The intensely homophobic atmosphere in Russia, much of it orchestrated by President Putin’s government, means it would be very unlikely for an openly gay athlete to be selected for the Russian Olympic squad. The Kremlin has banned a Pride House - a social meeting space for gay athletes and spectators, like the one at the London 2012 Olympics.
“These are clear breaches of the anti-discrimination Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Yet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said and done nothing. It is allowing the Russian government to ban a Pride House and has not required the Russians to give a written undertaking that they will not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes in the selection of Russia’s team for the Winter Olympics.
“The IOC has hinted that any athlete who expresses support for LGBT equality during the events or ceremonies could face disciplinary action, possibly including disqualification, expulsion and being stripped of any medals won.
“The IOC’s doesn’t seem to be prioritising Olympic values and human rights. It appears to be driven by primarily commercial interests. The Olympics are big business. The host nation and corporate sponsors are supreme. Nothing is being permitted to detract from financial success and ‘good news’ PR - certainly not the plight of Russia’s persecuted LGBTs.
“The 1936 Berlin Olympics took place in an atmosphere of anti-Semitic hatred incited by the Nazi government. The 2014 Sochi Olympics echo this hatred, only this time the victims of demonisation are LGBT people. There are no Nuremburg laws or concentration camps but the hateful anti-gay propaganda is similar to the anti-Semitism stirred by the Nazis in the early 1930s.
“There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Putin’s Russia. The Kremlin stands accused wide-ranging attacks on human rights, including the arrest of opposition leaders and peaceful protesters, state censorship of the media and the harassment of journalists, lawyers, environmentalists and civil society activists,” concluded Mr Tatchell.
“Olympic sponsors are failing to live up to their commitments", said Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of All Out. "The IOC has confirmed that Principle 6 includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. Athletes all over the world are speaking out. We’ve just heard that the Russian government is considering amendments to the anti-gay laws. But sponsors continue to look the other way while gays and lesbians in Russia suffer.”
"The Global Speak Out means a lot to us here in St. Petersburg, Russia", aded Dmitry, one of the local LGBT rights organisers in St. Petersburg. "Together with thousands of people around the world we are going to show Russian authorities they can't attack lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT) Russians with impunity, without risking their international reputation and the success of our Olympics. We will not be silent anymore! We will fight back! For our rights! For our human rights!"
The 50 current and former Olympians supporting Principle 6 include Sochi-bound athletes Belle Brockhoff (Australia), Heath Spence (Australia), and Mike Janyk (Canada). To see the full list of Olympians backing Principle 6: http://www.principle6.org
Our thanks to Wilson Chowdhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, for providing the generator and PA system at the rally. Wilson does great work defending Christians and other minorities persecuted in Pakistan: www.britishpakistanichristians.co.uk The Peter Tatchell Foundation has been proud to work with him and his association.