ACT UP Disrupts Stoli Vodka Event at NYC Gay Club
Members of ACT UP disrupted a Stoli Vodka promotional event on Tuesday night at a popular gay club in New York City, according to Gay City News.
The group of less than a dozen protested Stoli’s "Most Original Stoli Guy" event last night at Splash Bar in Chelsea, shouting in front of a crowd of over 150 attendees. They held signs that read, "Russia Kills Gays," "Boycott Russia" and "Dump Stoli" but security rushed them out, shredding their signs and forcibly removing them from the bar.
In a YouTube video of the incident, a Splash drag queen hostess can be heard saying, "Look at these assholes being taken out of the bar. Bye assholes! This is America not Russia," while ACT UP members are being escorted out of the bar.
"I think it was great. They were totally taken off guard," Mark Milano of ACT UP, said after the protest. "There were Stoli executives in the room who saw their event crashed." Bacilio Mendez, another demonstrator, said before the protest he saw some "really uncomfortable suits... on their Blackberries texting, ’Oh, yes, there are a lot of people here,’" Gay City News reports.
ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, disrupted the event in response to the outcry from the LGBT community regarding Russia’s "homosexual propaganda" law. LGBT leaders and gay bars around the country have dumped Stoli and other Russian vodkas in a protest to the country’s vaguely worded anti-gay measure, which was signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
Those who break the law, which prohibits LGBT "propaganda" from being distributed among minors, face substantial fines and jail time. The measure also impacts "pro-gay" travelers who can be detained for two weeks and fined before being ejected from Russia.
Activists have also called for a protest against the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi. Though officials from the International Olympic Committee have stated they’ve received "assurances from the highest level" of Russian government that the "homosexual propaganda" law not impact athletes and fans during the event, Vitaly Milonov, a Russian lawmaker who sponsored the anti-gay bill, said on Tuesday the law will be enforced during the Olympics next year.
Gay City News reports the event was held the day before a demonstration at Manhattan’s Russian consulate, which is being organized by RUSA LGBT and Queer Nation. Individuals plan to picket the consulate and pour Russian vodka into the gutter as part of their "Dump Russian Vodka" campaign.
Splash owners recently announced the bar will shut down on August 10.
Watch a clip of the incident below:
Full disclosure: EDGE is a sponsor of Stoli’s "Most Original Stoli Guy" series of events, and has reached out to the company to discuss their response to this incident and the boycott. We will report on that response, and our ongoing participation in the "Most Original Stoli Guy" events, in the near future.