Gay Activists Protest Coca-Cola’s Involvement in Sochi Olympics

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday December 24, 2013

LGBT rights activists in London held a protest on Sunday against the Coca-Cola company for its sponsorship of the Sochi Olympics, Gay Star News reports.

The protesters "gate-crashed a Coca-Cola Christmas PR stunt in London's Covent Garden," GSN writes, adding that the protesters took issue with the soda company's involvement in the upcoming Winter Olympics because of Russia's highly controversial "homosexual propaganda" law.

Leading U.K. LGBT activist Peter Tatchell attended the protest and, along with others, tired to climb on the roof of a Coca-Cola truck parked at the event on Dec. 22, which was one of London's busiest Christmas shopping days, according to GSN. Nevertheless, security guards pulled down the activists.

"Coke is sponsoring the Sochi Winter Olympics, without even a murmur of unease at the anti-gay and repressive policies of the Putin government. It is shameful acquiescence with oppression," Tatchell, who helped organize the protest, said. "By sponsoring the Sochi Winter Olympics, Coca-Cola is rewarding the Putin regime; giving it legitimacy and credibility... It is shocking that Coca Cola has not been willing to make any statement of support for LGBT equality or for other human rights in Russia."

GSN reports that about a dozen of the protesters were members of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and African LGBTI rights group the Out and Proud Diamond Group.

"Our protest was in support of all Russians - LGBT and straight - who are courageously resisting Putin's authoritarian rule and who are striving for democracy and human rights," Out and Proud's spokesperson Edwin Sesange said, according to GSN. "As Africans who have suffered homophobic persecution, we stand united with our Russian LGBT brothers and sisters. This is a global fight for LGBT equality."

Protesters held signs that said "Love Russia. Hate homophobia." and "Putin! Tyrant. Censor. Homophobe."

Officials from Coca-Cola have released a statement defending their involvement with the Sochi Olympics.

"We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices," the statement reads. "We do not condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world... We believe a more positive impact can be made through continued involvement [in the Olympics], rather than by sitting on the sidelines."

Watch a video of the protest below: