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  • On-the-Scene -- Human Rights Group Demonstrates at Coca-Cola HQ


    10/28/13

    Three trucks bearing billboards roll by Coca-Cola headquarters as a pair of cameramen look on. (ATR)
    Many have called on Coca-Cola to pressure Russia into changing its anti-gay legislation. On Monday, one human rights organization brought the fight to the soft drink giant’s doorstep.

    In an effort to solicit a response from the longtime Olympic partner, New York-based nonprofit All Out dispatched three mobile billboards to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.

    The three billboards, in succession, bore messages reading, "Coca-Cola," "Don't Stay Bottled Up," and "Speak Out Against Russia's Anti-Gay Laws."

    Trucks carrying the messages circled the company’s sprawling campus as All Out supporters displayed posters across the street from the main gates.

    “150,000 people have sent messages to Coca-Cola asking them to speak up and speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws,” says Wesley Adams, COO of All Out. “Coca-Cola’s been a strong supporter of gay and lesbian people in the United States. We’re asking them to extend that commitment to Russia as a Top Olympic Sponsor.”

    Coca-Cola holds the longest running sponsorship with the Olympics. The company first sponsored the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam.

    Adams says the billboards were paid for by donations from “thousands” of All Out supporters.

    “We just wanted something that would get their attention and let them know that everyone is paying attention and hoping for them to do the right thing,” says Adams.

    A protester holds a sign across from the company's main gate. (ATR)
    Adams is clear about his group’s expectations for Coca-Cola.

    “We’ve asked for three things,” he says. “One is to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws. Two is to financially support Russian human rights defenders who are working on the ground there and three is to ask the IOC to change their rules so that future Olympics will only go to countries that respect human rights.”

    Coca-Cola could not be reached for comment.

    As the protesters stood along North Avenue in Atlanta’s Midtown district, Russian president Vladimir Putin released a statement saying that he wants all visitors to feel “comfortable” at the Sochi Olympics, regardless of orientation.

    While Adams says this is a positive step, it is not a solution.

    “It’s not just about the Olympics,” says Adams. “Russia needs to respect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people living in Russia and repeal laws currently facing them.”

    Written and reported by Nick Devlin in Atlanta

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