Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Protesters picketed McDonald’s Corp. restaurants worldwide today over Russian anti-gay legislation, two days before the Winter Olympics open in Sochi.
All Out, a gay-rights group, said it was organizing rallies outside outlets of the world’s largest restaurant chain by sales in cities from New York and Paris to Sao Paulo and Durban. In total, demonstrations are planned for 19 cities, including London and St. Petersburg, the group said by e-mail.
McDonald’s is one of 10 main sponsors of the Olympics along with Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest beverage company, and Procter & Gamble Co., the biggest consumer-products maker. All have faced protests in the U.S. over their involvement with the Sochi games.
“These brands have spent millions to align themselves with the Olympics, but have repeatedly refused to support the founding principles of the Games,” Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out, said in an e-mailed statement. Gay and human-rights groups have demanded that the sponsors condemn a law banning homosexual “propaganda” to minors signed by President Vladimir Putin in June.
“McDonald’s stands for inclusion and we welcome, respect and value the diversity, culture and unique differences of our 69 million customers,” Becca Hary, global media relations director, said in an e-mail response to Bloomberg News. “We are aware that some activists are targeting Olympic sponsors to voice their concerns regarding the Russian LGBT legislation.” The Olympic Games “should be open to all” and free of discrimination, she said.
All Out, which is based in New York and has 1.9 million members around the world, hired trucks in October to circle Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta with billboards urging the drinks maker to call on Russia to repeal the measure.
Activists poured Coke into the sewers around Times Square in New York in August to protest the company’s sponsorship of the Sochi Olympics. That followed a protest outside the Oak Brook, Illinois, headquarters of McDonald’s, while a petition with almost 200,000 signatures calling on sponsors to condemn the law was delivered to Procter & Gamble’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Gerhard Heiberg, head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee, said in September he was being “pushed” by several sponsors who were worried about the likelihood of protests during the Feb. 7-23 games.
Campaigners in Russia, including a Russian lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals group, say that the law is so vague that it could apply to any open display of homosexuality and that it encourages violence against gays.
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