GAY rights activists staged a protest in a bid to get one of the world’s biggest companies to speak out against Russia’s controversial laws on homosexuality.
About a dozen supporters took to High Street West in Sunderland to campaign outside McDonald’s as they called on its bosses to speak out about the country’s stance.
Last year, its Government banned the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality, which has been seen as an attack on gay rights.
The country is holding this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, with the opening ceremony held yesterday.
People of all sexualities attended the protest, which also saw a letter handed to the restaurant’s management setting out why the event was held and how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were being beaten and persecuted in Russian.
Sam Willey, 22, one of the organisers, said: “What we’re trying to do is push them to at least accept Russia is persecuting gay people.
“It’s not necessarily to say they should pull out of their sponsorship but to speak out.
“They are paying a lot of money for the Olympics, and the least they could do is a little bit more to call for action.
“A lot of us saw the Dispatches documentary, and that really shocked a lot of people to the core.”
Among those to join in the event was Ryan Houston, chairman of Sunderland Pride, who said: “I think this highlights what we take for granted in the North East, and we support the work they are doing.”
The protest backed an international campaign called All Out, which states no person should have to sacrifice their family or freedom, safety or dignity, because of who they are or who they love.
A spokesman for McDonald’s said: “We are aware that some activists are targeting Olympic sponsors to voice their concerns regarding the Russian LGBT legislation.
“McDonald’s supports human rights, the spirit of the Olympics and all the athletes who’ve worked so hard to compete in the Games.
“We believe the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes.”