Protestors gate-crashed a Coca-Cola Christmas PR stunt in London’s Covent Garden today, in opposition to the global brand’s sponsorship of the Sochi Olympics.
The gay rights activists, including Peter Tatchell, tried to climb on the roof of the Coca-Cola truck parked in the center of London on one of the busiest Christmas shopping days. They were pulled down by security guards.
‘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,’ said Tatchell, coordinator of the protest.
‘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.’
Around a dozen protestors were there from 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,’ said Out and Proud’s spokesperson Edwin Sesange.
‘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.’
Out and Proud members carried signs saying ‘Love Russia. Hate homophobia’ and ‘Putin! Tyrant. Censor. Homophobe’.
Coca-Cola’s statement defending their sponsorship of the winter Olympics in Russia, where a series of laws limiting the rights of LGBT people have been passed, says:
‘We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices. 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.’
In August there was a large protest by LGBT rights groups outside Coca-Cola’s headquarters in New York.
Earlier this week President Obama announced that the delegation representing the US at the Sochi Olympics in February 2014 will include vocal LGBT rights advocate and former tennis player Billy Jean King.
‘Honored to represent USA in Sochi and I hope these Olympics will be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,’ tweeted King.
The announcement prompted a Saturday Night Live skit. ‘I’m President Obama’s big gay middle finger and this bird is about to be flipped,’ said comedian Kate McKinnon dressed as King on the show.
Watch the video (by Richard Rowland) of the Coca-Cola protest here: