Stoli Guy Meets ACT UP, Queer Nation Again

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For the second time in less than two months, a Stolichnaya Vodka promotional event at a Manhattan gay bar was disrupted by activists angered over Russia’s new anti-gay legislation.

Five demonstrators affiliated with ACT UP New York and Queer Nation stormed the stage at Marquee New York in Chelsea at the start of the Most Original Stoli Guy national finale, which brought together the winners from competitions in 12 cities. Blowing horns and holding up signs with messages including “Dump Stoli,” the group –– Mark Milano, Brandon Cuicchi, Terry Roethlein, and Chris Kohler –– brought the show to a halt for about a minute, before they were dragged from the stage by the club’s bouncers.

As the men were hauled away, one of the evening’s hosts said, “We are very lucky to live in a country where we can speak freely.” The host added, “And one of the things we are celebrating tonight is the passion that is the Stoli brand, and that is passion.”

In the three months since the Russian parliament unanimously enacted a law barring “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” –– aimed at information construed as equating same-sex relationships with those between a man and a woman –– activists nationwide have called for bars and their patrons to boycott Stolichnaya. Stoli is bottled by the SPI Group, a company controlled by Yuri Scheffler, identified in a Russian financial publication as one of that nation’s 75 richest people.

The new law includes fines that become particularly harsh if such “propaganda” is distributed online or in the mass media. Any outreach or assistance to LGBT minors is banned under the legislation.

Visitors to Russia charged under this law can be arrested, held for 15 days, fined, and deported –– something that has already happened to a group of Dutch tourists working on a documentary about the new law. More ominously, in the wake of the new law, videos and photos have surfaced showing gay and lesbian Russians who have been entrapped and tortured by homophobic thugs –– the release of the videos and photos motivated, presumably, by a desire to brag about the barbarous activity.

Some gay activists have also called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics planned for Sochi, Russia –– an effort supported by several dozen LGBT activists in that nation –– and pressure is being applied to major Olympic sponsors such as Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, and Visa.

Since the Stoli push began, SPI Group has sought to distance itself from Russia, emphasizing that it is headquartered in Luxembourg and that the vodka is bottled in Latvia. The company conceded, however, that Russian ingredients are used and that production also takes place there. Emphasizing the support the company has given to LGBT events and endeavors around the world, SPI has also argued that Scheffler is politically on the outs with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The law is widely seen as an effort by the Putin regime to scapegoat gays and their allies in the West for domestic political consumption. The Russian government has offered conflicting signals about whether foreigners visiting Sochi would face penalties under the new law, though activists have emphasized that is irrelevant to the primary question of how that nation’s own LGBT community is treated day in and day out.

While he was in St. Petersburg earlier this month for the G20 Summit, President Barack Obama met with Russian human rights advocates, including some gay leaders, the White House took pains to emphasize.

Activists including members of ACT UP and Queer Nation targeted an earlier Stoli Guy event at Splash on July 30 and dumped the vodka into the gutter at a demonstration outside the Russian Consulate on the Upper East Side the following day.


Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

richard says:
Whatever ! Stoli is not made in Russia.... what jerks these f@$%ers are !
Sept. 20, 2013, 11:43 pm
Montague says:
Made with Russian ingredients to enrich one of the richest guys in russia... nuff said.
Sept. 26, 2013, 11:13 am
fckdupathens says:
A very different story than the Greek HIV/Aids sector whereby the President of the NGO ACT UP ΔΡΑΣΕ HELLAS - (Kostadis Kaburakis) has been exposed as one of several who deliberately set out to steal state funding and gain access to highly sensitive medical data by deception whilst illegally masqueraging as a Doctor alongside another member of the board of Directors. This was as Chrysoula Botsi who works for the Greek CDC covered this up after defrauding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of nearly 200,000 euros for non legitimate projects, who was the Financial Director of the same NGO and responsible along with the other members of the Board for providing false Documentation to gain funding for trafficking projects to which they have no speciality, experience or qualification in. This 15 year lie was set in place to abuse the resources available as they played the NGO against the CDC to which most of them worked. Their Secretary was discovered entering non legal entries in their statute in a bid to try and cover their tracks before the fraud case was investigated by the Ministries and respective authorities. The recent case whereby the President tried to sue those responsible for exposing his crimes resulted in those accused of wrong doing being acquitted and found Innocent, and that the articles disclosed highlighting the NGO and it's Boards malpractice and fraud is now being further Investigated by the authorities. 15 years of cover ups and lies by the ACTUP here in Greece and those connected with this NGO have finally been exposed and those with HIV/Aids in Greece finally have a better chance at not being data farmed and stripped of their confidentiality, trust and medical needs by those who set to further their careers on the back of those unfortunate enough to fall victim to the state sector in charge.
Dec. 16, 2013, 12:58 pm
fckdupathens says:
As I am aware some of the people contacted have been affiliated with this NGO previously, I act to inform you to the truth about the NGO highlighted. As of the 23rd of October 2014. The six year lie committed by ACTUP ΔΡΑΣΕ ΗΕLLAS and it's current board of Directors to persecute myself for exposing them came to an end : Kostadis Kaburakis, Konstadinos Zikkas, Chrysoula Botsi, George Papachristo had their case ruled against them. The deliberate persecution against myself for refusing to defraud the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Greece which led to several Slander cases and a false case against myself to stall an Employment tribunal against them came to and end as the facts proved overwhelming in support of the defendant (myself) and exposed further the true nature of this NGO and it's Directors. The 20 year lie they hid behind has been proven in Court and now final Judgement awaits the people highlighted for their criminal activity. Acts such as pretending to be Doctors, gaining access to HIV/Aids medical data for their own gain, fraud and embezzlement on top of threatening and filing court cases to persecute those who oppose them are and have been how this NGO has been conducting itself throughout it's shameful history. The facts as covered by my blog have since all been proven to be true, something which I and many have known for 6 years and yet despite having the facts have had to battle against the network and system of people who sought to cover this and protect it. Having been abused for doing right, refusing to commit crime and had legal cases for slander against me for exposing the truth, I appeal to your humane side to help me reveal the truth about this NGO and the sector here which protects itself. The Judge summarised the case by stating that the case was a deliberate and systematic attempt by people set on damaging myself for standing up and refusing to accept their corrupt and immoral behaviour towards those who they used and abused for their own gain and that their lies and accusations, false information and history of criminal behaviour was pathetic and shameful. As I have been the victim to their lies and slander on a number of websites who chose to still support this NGO and not allow me the opportunity to defend myself from such abusive and damaging slurs, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to have this matter raised at the highest level whereby people and society can be made aware of the criminal neglect and shambolic actions committed by these people. As Greece regularly suffers people within this domain abusing this sector when the CDC employs these people in the first place, it's no wonder the level of corruption and criminal abuse is so abundant. The recent case whereby over a dozen women were shamed nationally and exposed as having HIV/Aids shows how one hand creates the problem for the other to appear to help, a self serving circle all run by the same. Their unsupported arguements for 6 years attempting to cover up 20 years of lies to prevent the truth from coming out has abused many including myself for standing up to them. I have been slandered and allowed by their networks to be used to help cover up the real fact that they were corrupt, using the cases against me was appropriate when they hadn't happened as it gave them a statement they could churn out to be the victim for a short while, well that day ended yesterday. The facts are all covered on my blog and please feel free to get in tough should you require any further information. Please help distribute the reality and protect others who fall victim to this bogus and corrupt NGO. For more information, please visit the link below : Thank you for your time, Simon A.Rawicz
Oct. 25, 2014, 7:49 pm

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