Queer Nation & GetEqual Disrupt “Road to Sochi” Events Amid LGBT Safety Concerns
By Melanie Nathan, January 10, 2014.
Three members of Queer Nation and GetEqual Massachusetts disrupted the opening event of the US Olympic Committee’s Road to Sochi tour stop in Boston, inquiring about the safety of LGBT Olympians, Spectators & Russians. In particular activist Sasha Kaufmann, of GetEqual Massachusetts, engaged Picabo Street, the former World Cup alpine ski racer from the United States, resulting in a verbal altercation between the two that indicated very little sensitivity or understanding on the part of Ms. Street to the plight of LGBTI Russians or the safety of gay and lesbian Americans attending the events in Russia.
Activists were left with unanswered concerns after a panel of U.S. Olympic Committee members, including former and current Olympic athletes, dodged multiple questions about the spectators and athlete safety during the Boston Globe’s “Countdown to Sochi” event. The Q&A concluded with Sasha Kaufmann disrupting the panel, exclaiming:
“How can you reassure me that I won’t be arrested as an out gay person attending Sochi?”
The two-time Olympic medalist Picabo Street answered:
“We are Americans, we don’t live in Russia…I would take you under my arm, we will experience the Olympic games together and have a wonderful time.”
When inquiring about what will happen to Kaufmann’s Russian gay brothers and sisters after the games are complete, Street interrupted the panel’s uncomfortable silence with:
“I don’t know. Hopefully nothing.”
In June, the Russian government enacted legislation banning any LGBT propaganda, effectively restricting any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. Yesterday, the U.S State Department released a travel advisory a travel advisory for LGBT people traveling to Russia effective until March 24th, highlighting the, “broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda.’”
“We are not only worried about the safety of those attending the Sochi Olympics next month, in light of the state department’s recent travel advisory for LGBT spectators and athletes ” stated Sasha Kaufmann, a state organizer with GetEqual Massachusetts, “We are extremely concerned about the the path of destruction the International Olympic Committee’s will leave behind on LGBT Russians once the games are over.”
The disruption of the kick-off events concluded with activists unfurling a 40-foot rainbow banner reading “Boycott Homophobia” just feet away from the main event’s stage in Boston Common, chanting “USOC protect LGBTs” and “Don’t believe Putin’s lies” for roughly 15 minutes, The zap is the latest in a series of high profile protests against the Sochi Olympics and its sponsors, including petition deliveries to Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and confrontation of the USOC at the Countdown to Sochi kickoff event in Times Square.
Video of the disruption can be found here: http://bit.ly/GeMASochi
Many activists are promoting the complete boycott of Sochi ‘s Olympic Games under the belief that any attendance on the part of athletes, teams, coaches, sponsors and spectators serves to marginalize the principle and to endorse the Putin regime’s institutionalized discrimination and persecution of gays in Russia. It is further believed that after the games the Russian LGBT community will continue to suffer and may in fact be worse off, if Putin perceives the Sochi games as his victory in the face of the perceived acceptance of the attendees of the legalized homophobia.
Queer Nation is a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. Website: www.queernationny.org. Twitter: @QueerNationNY. Facebook: Facebook.com/qn.newyork.
GetEQUAL Massachusetts is a state-based chapter of GetEQUAL,a group working to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, holding accountable those who stand in the way. Website: www.getequalma.org; Twitter: @GetEqualMA; Facebook; http://bit.ly/GetEqualMass;
— ### —