Anti-Gay Laws Not Enough For Putin, Signs Decree Outlawing Protests During Olympics

Putin is not only turning a deaf ear to growing protests, he seems defiant; determined to ratchet up tension in the face of global outrage. Image Darryl Dyck , The Canadian Press @ EdmontonJournal

Putin is not only turning a deaf ear to growing protests, he seems defiant; determined to ratchet up tension in the face of global outrage. Image Darryl Dyck , The Canadian Press @ EdmontonJournal

We can only start with this question: why are the Winter Olympics still scheduled for Sochi, Russia in February of 2014? How is it that the International Olympic Committee still believes an event whose mission statement is to “promote peace, development and international cooperation” can authentically exist in a setting where not only have laws been enacted to infringe upon the rights of the entire LGBT community (inclusive of Olympic athletes and their supporters), but a country in which the president, Vladimir Putin, doubles down by signing a decree to ban any protest of those laws? To logical minds, there is no way that scenario can play out, but it is… and President Putin has, indeed, banned any demonstrations or protests for the two and a half months around the time of the February event, citing “anti-terror protection” as the prevailing reason. Not many are buying that rationale.

From The Washington Post:

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said. [… ]

Government-imposed protest bans across entire cities where Olympics are held are unusual. Putin’s decree could be aimed at heading off demonstrations against Russia’s ban on alleged gay propaganda, a new law that has been sharply criticized in the West. [Emphasis added]

So as protests grow globally, along with talk of boycotts and a slew of petitions, including those urging a relocation of the Games, the leader of Russia has turned a deaf ear to the pushback, choosing instead to up the ante, take even further steps to make sure the LGBT community and their supporters show no pride, make no public expressions, and pursue no legal recourse without invoking one of the expanding list of laws designed to oppress them.

But what many find equally tone-deaf is the reaction of the IOC to the metastasizing situation. As voices grow louder in the demand to move the Winter Games to a country more emblematic of the spirit of Olympic tolerance, acceptance and inclusion, that organization’s president, Jacques Rogge, appears to be oblivious to the outrage being felt around the world. Human rights groups have been very vocal in their concerns regarding the ‘harassment and intimidation of civil society,” and many leaders within both the sporting world and the LGBT community have spoken about boycotts and relocation, but the IOC appears to have been mollified by Russia’s insistence that all is well. From The Huffington Post:

The International Olympic Committee received a letter Thursday from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak giving assurances that the host country will comply with the Olympic Charter’s provision against discrimination of any kind. The letter, however, defended Russia’s new anti-gay law and said it would be enforced. [Emphasis added]

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Friday that he is “comforted” by Russia’s assurance the charter’s ban on discrimination will be respected.

“We are going to inform now all the national Olympic committees and all the athletes who want to have clarity,” Rogge told reporters after addressing the U.N. General Assembly.

“Comforted”?? Really? That was comforting? And what “clarity” does Rogge believe can be conveyed to the attending athletes and their retinues? That if they abide by the freedom-squashing laws of the host country they won’t be arrested and put in jail? That’s cold comfort indeed.

But while Russia’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, admonishes critics to “calm down,” gay activists are doing anything but. Many are defiantly encouraging protesters to gather and publicly rally despite the newly signed decree, and the movement to relocate the Winter Olympics to Vancouver, Canada is finding serious traction (even actor/activist George Takei is lending his celebrity to the effort). The games are scheduled for February 7 – February 23, 2014. That’s just a little over five months away…

Whether the din grows loud enough to affect a change of venue remains to be seen. But if Putin continues to show his disdain and dismissal of the growing dissent, it’s likely only to get louder.

If you’d like to sign the relocation petition, click HERE.