Worldwide protests demand Sochi 2014 sponsors "speak out" for gay rights

Protests are being held in 19 cities around the world demanding the Olympic sponsors "speak out now" about anti-gay laws in Russia, the host country of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Sochi 2014: a BBC TV trailer for its coverage of the forthcoming Winter Olympics
Sochi 2014: a BBC TV trailer for its coverage of the forthcoming Winter Olympics

Sponsors including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, P&G, Samsung and Visa are being targeted by the gay rights campaign after Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced laws against "gay propaganda".

The protests have been organised by the All Out organisation and are being held today, with the London protest due to take place at 6pm at Downing Street.

The Facebook group for the London protest states that the "sponsors think they can stay silent and run down the clock, but that won’t work if each of us – their customers – demand that they stand with us".

All Out argues that the sponsors have invested millions in the Olympics and billions in the Russian economy, and as a result, have "huge economic leverage" with Russia’s government.

The aim of the campaign is to pressure the sponsors to speak out in support of gay, lesbian, bi and trans Russians and help bring an end to "discriminatory laws" in Russia.

The Russian-based protest will take place in St Petersburg and those who are not able to attend any of the protests being held in the 19 major cities are being encouraged to protest outside offices and stores of the sponsors and Russian embassies.

Putin claims gay people will be welcome in Sochi for the Winter Olympics, which start on Friday, as long as they do not "promote homosexuality and paedophilia among minors".

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