Hundreds of protesters gathered in London Saturday to condemn Russia’s “gay propaganda” legislation and call for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Author Stephen Fry, who made headlines when he wrote an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee Wednesday calling for the 2014 Games to relocate, attended the protest wearing shirt reading “Thought is free,” a line from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Fry told BuzzFeed he doesn’t believe the Games will move elsewhere, but said athletes should use a signal during the games to show they support the LGBT community.
I’m under no illusions that we’re going to make the Games go to Vancouver or Lake Placid or anywhere else – they will go ahead. But I think it’s up to the gay community now, and our straight friends, to devise a signal that all the athletes can use, every time they perform, every time they win a medal, to show that they are thinking of the oppressed LGBT community.
Fry said the protest wasn’t about Olympics as much as it was about “allowing gay people of Russia to grow up free and proud and happy and with the genuine sense of importance they deserve.”
Just remember that what this is about is not a big abstract thing like the Olympic movement, or a big abstract thing like the nature of totalitarianism, it’s keeping in the head the lesbian being savagely raped and being told by the police go take a walk because it’s not a crime, it’s a corrective thing to make you straight. These things happen daily in Russia; the teenagers being humiliated by their friends, punched and kicked and forced into suicide at an enormous rate. That’s what we have to remember this is all about, it’s about allowing the gay people of Russia to grow up free and proud and happy and with the genuine sense of importance they deserve.
Prime Minister David Cameron responded to Fry’s letter on Twitter Saturday, saying he too was concerned about Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation, but he indicated he did not agree with an Olympics boycott.
1/2 Thank you for your note @stephenfry. I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia…/ Via
2/2 @stephenfry However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics. DC/ Via
Protestors assembled on Richmond Terrace in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, and as close as possible to the private road that houses the Russian Embassy.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told BuzzFeed he was pleased by the turnout.
It’s been fantastic to see so many thousands of people come out, at very short notice, to send a very clear message both to David Cameron and to President Putin that Russia’s attacks on the LBGT community are unacceptable. They are a violation of international human rights law, which Russia has signed and pledged to uphold. It isn’t just about this new anti-gay law, it’s also about the rising levels of homophobic violence, and these escalating repressions against the LGBT community are part of a larger and broader attack on Russian civil society. Lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, opposition activists are all being targeted by the Putin regime. We all have to stand together in solidarity to demand democracy and human rights for every Russian person.
Tatchell said the protest was just the beginning and there were plans to boycott companies that sponsor the Olympics.
And he declared that this was just the beginning: “This protest is just the beginning and already they’ve put the human rights of LGBT Russians into the headlines around the world. Right now we’ve got a Boycott Russian Vodka campaign it’s just the first stage. The next stage is to boycott the companies that are backing the Winter Olympics such a McDonalds, Coca Cola and Visa. Then we have to escalate the campaign further to Russian companies that are investing in Russia and supporting the Putin regime. Economic power is the key to victory.