BERLIN — Gay rights activists in Berlin on Friday cheered and waved placards reading “Stop Homophobia” at the lighting of an Olympic-style ‘”Rainbow Flame” that will burn for the next 16 days while the Winter Olympic games takes place in Sochi, Russia.
The project, by Berlin-based advocacy group Enough is Enough, is intended to highlight anti-LGBT violence and human rights violations in Russia.
The flame’s pedestal, located at the site of the Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin’s famed Potsdamer Platz public square, 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.
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Alfonso Pantisano, 39, a Berlin-based freelance television broadcaster, co-founded the organization last summer after Russia adopted anti-gay laws designed to stop the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to children.
“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 said.
The group has called on the German government “to take a stand and to do everything possible to ensure that [Russia’s] law is abolished” because “Russia has once again veered away from democratic values.”
The statement notes that Russia’s anti-gay law runs contrary “to the commitments entered by 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 heterosexual male actors and artists kissing.
The Rainbow Flame project is slated to cost the group an estimated $20,000 and is entirely funded by donations.