In dozens of major cities around the world massive rallies were held on Tuesday to encourage world leaders on their way to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg to ask their host, Russian president Vladimir Putin, to repeal his new anti-gay law.
Here in Nelson, Michael Wicks and Cole Johnson stood in front of City Hall for an hour with signs and information about the global campaign, which was organized by the international gay rights group All Out.
Wicks said it was a last minute decision to host an event in Nelson, and though the men didn’t have a crowd of supporters behind them, he considers their effort a success.
“We talked to 50 or 60 people of all ages and found they were all very supportive and aware of what’s going on in Russia,” Wicks said, noting that Nelson is now on the list of 33 cities that participated in the protect, alongside Toronto, London and Melbourne.
At issue is a new Russian law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” (i.e. anywhere in public). The law has attracted international attention in part because Russia is hosting the Winter Olympics this February.
There’s been calls for countries to boycott the Olympics if the law isn’t repealed and pressure on Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola and McDonalds to pull their funding for the Games.
In Nelson, Wicks had a simple request for the people he talked to about the anti-gay laws.
“Send love,” he said. “Obviously we don’t have a Russian Consulate here, but we can all visualize a better world and spend some time meditating on the image of change in Russia. Those positive vibrations will get through.”
Wicks moved to Nelson from Vancouver, where he was heavily involved in the gay liberation movement in the 1980s. He said he’s always believed in the power of positive thinking.
“Love always wins,” he said, referring to the message on one of the posters he printed off the All Out website. “These laws are rooted in hate and intolerance and we’re going to beat them with love.”