New York's Irish bars have a message for President Vladimir Putin: target Russia's gay community with draconian new laws and we'll target your vodka in payback.
On Monday some of the city's most prominent Irish bar owners freely poured bottles of Russian vodka into the Manhattan drains in protest over shocking scenes of violence and abuse that have been captured on video since the passing of the controversial 'gay propaganda' law.
According to SFGate, Paul Hurley, the well known president of the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association, held up a bottle of the popular Russian brand Stolichnaya, then shook his head and called for a city-wide boycott of all Russian spirits and liquor.
'All these vodkas here, we're going to throw them out,' Hurley told the press. 'We feel enough is enough.'
Hurley urged the public to drink American-made alcohol instead, adding that the boycott was the first step toward pressuring Russia to change its policies toward gay people.
'We are encouraging every member of our restaurant association to get involved, as well as New Yorkers gay or straight to get involved,' said Hurley, who is also the owner of Desmond's Steakhouse where the protest was held. Hurley says that at least 200 bars and restaurants are already participating in the boycott.
Paddy MacCarty, owner of Manhattan Irish bar Nevada Smiths, said he's planning to toss every bottle of Russian vodka behind the bar.
At least 200 New York bars and restaurants are now participating in the boycott, which began in many gay bars across America but has quickly been adopted by others.
Signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, the so-called ban on 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations' law imposes serious fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies.
If you speak in defense of gay rights, or equate gay and heterosexual relationships, you can be prosecuted under the new law. The bill applies to Russians and foreigners alike, which has caused international uproar in advance of the Winter Olympics, which Russia is currently scheduled to host. It has also been blamed for the shocking spike in anti-gay attacks in the country.
The Russian government, which voted 436 in favor, 0 against the law, has struck a defiant tone. Last week, Russia's sports minister warned that the country will enforce the 'gay propaganda' law when it hosts the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.
When LGBT Russians staged a protest over the law after the bill passed they were viciously attacked by hundreds of counter-protestors until police moved in, not to protect them, but to arrest them.
Meanwhile U.S. Representative Jerrod Nadler has reportedly submitted a bipartisan letter to the State Department calling for protection for Americans who plan to travel to the Olympic Games.
'These laws are completely contrary to the uniting spirit of the Olympics, which brings diverse nations together in a spirit of peaceful and friendly competition,' Nadler said.
Currently the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association is only pushing for a ban on Russian vodkas, but not other Russian products they may use in their establishments.
'It has to start somewhere,' said Yelena Goltsman, Founder and Co-President of RUSA LGBT, a Russian-Speaking American LGBT Group, told SFGate.
Hurley was in no doubt where to aim when he tipped his bottle into the street. 'This one's for Putin,' he said.
An unlikely champion of family values and the sanctity of marriage, Putin and his ex-wife Lyudmila recently divorced.
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