On Friday the 7th the local LGBT community in Amsterdam held a demonstration against the homophobic laws in Putin’s Russia and the anti-LGBT violence and oppression in this great country. Some 1000 people gathered near the Homo-monument to hear speeches by notables from the LGBT community, amongst whom best-selling Dutch author Arthur Japin. Quoting from one of his books, this openly gay author, condemned the soft handed approach of the Dutch government towards the Russian state. At the closing of the demonstration an alternative heart shaped Olympic flame of love was lit. Many of the demonstrators withstood torrents of rain and put their own burning candle on the Homo-monument.
Heated public debate
The public debate in the Netherlands regarding the human rights situation has heated up over the last 18 months. Not only the situation of the LGBT community in Russia has drawn the attention, but also the imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot and the capture of the Greenpeace protest ship and it’s crew. Public opinion within the Netherlands towards the Putin regime has become frosty to say the least.
Top heavy delegation
When the Dutch government announced that it would send a heavy delegation for the opening of the Winter Olympics, or Putin’s games, a public outcry arose from many quarters of Dutch society. This delegation consists of the Dutch King and Queen, the prime-minister and the minister for sports. This delegation is without parallel among the western democracies. Public remarks in defense of this delegation (‘you shouldn’t mix sports with politics’) hit a raw nerve. The more so, because other countries took care to put together delegations with many prominent LGBT-sports activist and few high ranked officials.
Ground swell of protest
Many people spoke out in public against this delegation and an online petition quickly gathered 38.000 signatures. Organizations like COC and Amnesty International spoke out against the delegation and pressured the prime minister into a policy of addressing the LGBT-rights in Russia in his meeting with President Putin.
Remarkably enough this protest was a bottom-up protest, without any clear public leaders. Only Arthur Japin and few other gay and lesbian media personalities spoke out publicly on this issue. No support came from the sporting community.