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ACT UP and Queer Nation Confront Russian Vodka Company at Manhattan Club

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Saturday Sep 21, 2013

Five members of ACT UP and Queer Nation disrupted the September 19 finale of the Most Original Stoli Guy Competition at Marquee NY. In front of a crowd of around 300 people, activists stormed the stage blaring airhorns and chanting "Dump Stoli Now," "Russia Kills Gays" and "Boycott Sochi" while holding signs.

"Stolichnaya has been fighting the LGBT community with slick marketing and spin since the boycott of Russian products, including Russian vodka, was called on July 22," said Mark Milano, an ACT UP member who participated in the protest. "If this company is the friend of the LGBT community that it claims to be it has to stop fighting us and start fighting the Russian government."

In June, the Russian government, under Vladimir Putin, enacted a law that effectively bans any pro-LGBT statement or demonstration in public or private and on the Internet. Russian citizens and foreign nationals have already been prosecuted under the law. The Russian parliament is currently considering legislation that would remove children from any household with gay and lesbian parents. A boycott was called in response.

In July, dozens of gay bars across the US answered LGBT and AIDS activists' call for a boycott on Stoli, a Russian vodka owned by SPI Group, a beverage company that distributes several brands of vodka in Russia. SPI maintains hundreds of employees in Russia and sources most of its raw materials from Russia. Stoli has proudly identified itself as "Russian Vodka" on its label for decades.

Stolichnaya has held the Most Original Stoli Guy contest in some gay bars across the U.S. On July 30, ACT UP members disrupted the NYC Stoli Guy competition held at gay bar Splash by blowing whistles and chanting. After rushing the stage and holding up signs to the crowd of roughly 150, the AIDS activists were dragged out of the club while an emcee said "Let's just look at all these assholes while they get escorted out of the bar. Bye assholes... You're in America, not Russia."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


  • Bob K, 2013-09-21 18:38:47

    ... Except that it is made in Lithuania, albeit with Russian ingredients. Stoli is the most obvious Russian-named product, popular in Gay bars. However, they have supported Gay events a long time, so I hate to see them as a target

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