UK

Gay Rights Activists Target Coca Cola Over Russia's Sochi Winter Olympics

10/21/2013 12:34 pm 12:34:57

Russian vodka was the high profile target of gay rights activists, boycotting the blends to protest the country's crack down on gay "propaganda", which effectively banned LGBT education and gay rights marches.

Now it's the mixer that next in the firing line - Coca Cola. And more specifically, the soft drink's links to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Gay rights campaigners All Out have launched a petition, with 138,000 signatories, to call on the drinks manufacturer to make a statement on the gay propaganda law, even if a boycott is not a practical aim.

russia gay rights

A gay rights activist holds a rainbow flag as she takes part in a gay pride event in St Petersburg

In August, the mega-brand's spokeswoman Kate Harman said Coca Cola would not be in favour of moving the Olympics from Russia.

“As a sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every community that has been a host,” she said.

Peter Tatchell, the veteran equal rights campaigner who is backing the campaign, told HuffPost UK: "Big corporations like Coca Cola are very sensitive about their positive image.

"They don't want to be seen as prejudice or colluding with prejudice of others. That would be a PR disaster. Putting pressure on the sponsors of the Sochi Olympics is indirectly putting pressure on the Russian government. Money talks.

"Regardless of whether the sponsors actually pull out, a public statement against this gay propaganda law, and support for the LGBT community in Russia would be a huge poke in the eye to the Russian government, and a morale boost to LGBT Russians."

All Out said Coca Cola bosses are set to meet this week to discuss the campaign.

The group said in a statement :"It’s easy to think we can’t influence what’s happening in an authoritarian regime like President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But Putin craves legitimacy and glory. If we can get the companies that are paying for his personal public relations exercise to step up and criticize this vicious anti-gay law, then Putin’s Olympic games are in trouble.

"As a community, we’ve shown what can be achieved when we work together for LGBT rights. We’ve fought against transphobia in newspapers like the Daily Mail. Together, we persuaded Pepsi to fight against Uganda’s anti-gay law, and we ran a huge campaign to thank Starbucks for supporting marriage equality. We’re defending the most basic of all human rights: the right to life, the right to live free of unfair arrest, and the right to be yourself."

Stolichnaya's owners the SPI group wrote a strong response, condemning the stance of the Russian government.

The letter, published bu chief executive Val Mendeleev said: "The recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian government limiting the rights of the LGBT community and the passionate reaction of the community have prompted me to write this letter to you.

"I want to stress that Stoli firmly opposes such attitude and actions. Indeed, as a company that encourages transparency and fairness, we are upset and angry.

"Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be an fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community."

Gay Rights In Russia

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