New York, NY (October 28, 2013) — Gay activists directly confronted Russian government officials over that country’s anti-LGBT laws during a forum to promote US investment in Russia, disrupting a panel promoting investment in Moscow.One after another, three members of Queer Nation rose to question the panelists.
“This is not funny,” Mark Milano, another protestor, told the audience. “You should be divesting, not investing in Russia.””Gays will be the cultural death of Russia,” one American audience member shouted back.
The protestors were escorted out one by one by five security guards. There were no arrests.
The protest took place at the Princeton Club at 15 West 43rd Street. The meeting, “Invest in Moscow: Doing Business in Russia’s Capital,” featured leading Moscow government officials. For the past eight years, Moscow has banned LGBT pride marches and demonstrations. This year, Moscow’s highest court barred such events for 100 years. When LGBT activists have defied the bans, Russian police have responded with violence and have allowed Russian nationalists and religious conservatives to attack LGBT activists with impunity.In June, the Russian government enacted legislation that effectively bans any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. In July, a law banning adoptions of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage took effect. A law allowing the state to remove children from the homes of same-sex couples is still in play.
This demonstration follows recent Queer Nation actions on October 10 at Carnegie Hall and during the Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala on September 23, where the direct action group confronted Valery Gergiev, a world-renowned Russian conductor, and Anna Netrebko, a famous Russian soprano, over their silence on Russia’s anti-gay laws. Gergiev and Netrebko are vocal supporters of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
On November 18, there will be another Russian investment forum at Goodwin & Procter, a New York city law firm. It is being sponsored by the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York.
“Russian government officials are learning that they can’t come to New York City without being held responsible for their complicity in the oppression of Russian gay men and women,” said John Weir, the third Queer Nation member who disrupted this morning’s forum. “The Moscow business community discovered that first-hand today.”
In August, three California lawmakers became the first in the nation to demand their state divest of it Russian investments. The California State Teacher’s Retirement Fund is the second largest in the United States.
Prior to the meeting’s start, other Queer Nation members, who held up a 60-foot rainbow flag banner that read “Support Russian Gays” caught the interest of passersby.
“New Yorkers were surprised to find out their tax dollars were being used to encourage investment in a country with anti-LGBT laws,” said Alexis Danzig, who led the protest outside the Princeton Club. “New Yorkers don’t want this, either.”
Russia ranks last of all the BRICS countries on Transparency International’ Corruption Index, and 133 out of 178 overall, just behind Uganda, Nicaragua, and the Ivory Coast.
Russia will host the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi next February. Moscow is the site of the Miss Universe pageant on November 9, 2013.