Russian embassy sidewalk in Stockholm painted rainbow by activists

I saw, flying around Twitter last night, a claim that activists in Sweden had painted the sidewalk in front of the Russian Embassy in Stockholm in the colors of the rainbow, to protest Russia’s draconian crackdown on its gay and trans citizens.

I checked in with my resident Swedes, and it’s confirmed real, it’s been in the Swedish press for a few days.

Below is the photo of the embassy being passed around Twitter. Some are crediting Claes Betsholtz for the photo – his Facebook account does show that he posted this photo via mobile on Saturday, so looks like it might in fact be his.

It’s really nice to see how involved so many people from all over the world have gotten in this issue in only the past two weeks since the vodka boycott was announced.  In many ways, this entire issue has moved far beyond a vodka boycott.  Focus has shifted, significantly, towards the safety of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, something that neither the International Olympic Committee (IOC) nor Russia itself can guarantee with any confidence.

(Having said that, there’s really no excuse for Stolichnaya vodka, and its parent corp SPI Group, to refuse to include trans people in its non-discrimination policy – but it is refusing. Keep in mind that Stoli and SPI didn’t even include gays in their non-discrimination policy until a week or so ago when Mike Signorile asked the company CEO about it.  We also learned during the Signorile interview that Stoli and SPI don’t appear to grant gay partner benefits, or trans health benefits either.  When you don’t offer benefits, and don’t even include us in your non-discrimination policy, you’re hardly a paragon of LGBT corporate virtue.  That’s to say that Stoli is not even close to off the hook here.)

As I wrote last week, boycotts aren’t about the thing itself.  They’re about a larger goal, and the boycott is simply a means towards that ends.

In this case, the goal of the campaign is not to destroy Russian vodka makers, or even necessarily harm them (meaning, I’m agnostic on whether they suffer financial pain from the boycott).  The point of the action was to galvanize world attention, both media and grassroots, on the deplorable situation in Russia after the issue had languished for years.  It’s now no longer languishing, with actions popping up in country after country, the media practically tripping over its to find new angles to the story, with governments around the world now weighing in, including President Obama himself, and with the IOC showing what appears to be legitimate concern about the threat that increasing Russian human rights abuses pose to the viability of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

All that in two weeks, after two years of not so much other than the occasional news story.

That per se is the definition of a successful boycott.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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