Friday, February 7, 2014

LGBTQ Rights activists light 'Rainbow" Flame in Berlin to protest Russian anti-gay laws

By Brody Levesque | BERLIN -- A cheering crowd of about 200 LGBTQ rights activists from the Berlin based- Enough is Enough group holding placards reading: "Stop Homophobia" along with others attending the protest waving pride and national flags, lit an Olympic-style 'rainbow flame' Friday that will burn for the next 16 days while the Winter Olympic games takes place in Sochi, Russia.
The activists have set up an occupy-style encampment in the centre of the Berlinale Film Festival activities on the city's famed Potsdamer Platz. The flame's pedestal, is guarded around the clock by at least two volunteer activists -- a requirement of German law -- and is surrounded by a canvas enclosure containing the text of Russia's anti-gay law which took effect last June.
Alfonso Pantisano, 39, an Italian-born, Berlin-based freelance television presenter who co-founded the organization last summer after Russia adopted anti-gay laws designed to stop the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relationships" to children, said no government had the right to dictate who people could love.
"Tonight's action is a solemn vigil that will go on for 16 days and 15 nights until the Olympic flame in Sochi is extinguished," Pantisano told Nick Holdsworth, a British film critic and journalist.
Pantisano also told Holdsworth that he was hopeful that "Hollywood stars in Berlin for the film festival" would stop by, have their photographs taken and post them on social media as a sign of solidarity.
The group issued a statement calling on the German government "to take a stand and to do everything possible to ensure that this law is abolished, because with the law against " homosexual propaganda "Russia has once again veered away from democratic values."
The statement also pointed out that the Russian anti-gay law runs contrary "to the commitments entered Russia as a member of the Council of Europe and with the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights."
The group also is lobbying sponsors of the winter games to use the "power of their financial strength to do to position themselves clearly and to work for the defense of human rights in Russia. We recall that human rights are worth more than financial profit."
The group currently has over 21,000 followers on Facebook and was also responsible for a wildly successful social awareness campaign in the German edition of GQ Magazine that featured male hetrosexual actors and artists kissing.
The Rainbow Flame project is slated to cost the group an estimated $20,000 and is entirely funded by donations.