A demonstration calling for the McDonalds and other sponsors of the 2014 Sochi Olympics to take a stand against the host nation’s laws regarding homosexuality took place downtown last Wednesday.
Approximately 35 people attended the protest, which aimed to compel sponsors such as McDonalds, Visa, and Coca-Cola Inc. to publicly speak out against the laws. The protest took place as part of a series of protests around the world last Wednesday in defence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Last June, legislation passed in Russia’s highest court sparked outrage in the international community by banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
McGill Student Anne Vaillancourt, U3 Nursing, organized the event as a member of international equality campaign group “All Out.”
“[Sponsors] are of capital importance in the Olympics and in financial support,” she said. “We know that money rules the world, thus [we hope] key players can take a stand against Putin’s laws and show their colours. We hope this is what results from our intervention tonight.”
Protestors chanted slogans in French and English, including “buying is voting” and “no to oppression.”
Gishian Raethirian, U1 Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, was also present at the protest. Raethirian said he attended to raise awareness and question the choice of Russia as the host of an international event.
“I view the Olympics as a competition among all countries in the world,” he said. “Everyone views the Olympics as a friendly competition but how can a country host the competition if they’re not friendly towards everyone? We’re trying to bring it to surface and let everyone see what is going on.”
Raethirian cited Russia’s laws regarding same-sex marriage as violating Principle Six of the Olympic Charter, which denounces discrimination on any basis, including that of sexual orientation.
“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement,” reads Principle Six of the Olympic Charter.
On campus, Queer McGill—a university-wide support system for queer students and their allies—is also organizing events in support of LGBT rights in Russia.
According to Jake Belman, U1 Science and Queer McGill member, the group is currently in the process of organizing events to raise awareness of injustices and create political pressure. For Belman, unity is key in the fight to defend LGTB rights in Russia.
“Everyone knows that they themselves cannot do much alone, and that’s precisely why we have to band together,” Belman said. “We need to stand together and put pressure on Russia to change its laws and stop oppressing LGBT people. It takes a lot of voices coming together and a lot of hands working and fighting to help the cause.”