West Hollywood Dumps Vodka Into Gutters in Protest of Russia's Anti-Gay Laws

Some West Hollywood bar owners are vowing to pull popular Russian-made vodkas from their shelves

By Willian Avila and Toni Guinyard
|  Friday, Aug 2, 2013  |  Updated 1:55 AM PDT
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West Hollywood has joined a growing list of U.S. cities boycotting Russian-made vodka as a way to protest that country's anti-gay laws. On Thursday, bars held a symbolic protest, pouring water from vodka bottles into the street. Conan Nolan reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2013.

Conan Nolan

West Hollywood has joined a growing list of U.S. cities boycotting Russian-made vodka as a way to protest that country's anti-gay laws. On Thursday, bars held a symbolic protest, pouring water from vodka bottles into the street. Conan Nolan reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2013.

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West Hollywood Dumps Vodka Over Russia's Anti-Gay Laws

Russian vodka was symbolically dumped into West Hollywood's curbside drains as an act of protest over the nation's stringent anti-gay laws. Toni Guinyard reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at noon on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013.
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Russian vodka was symbolically dumped into West Hollywood's curbside drains Thursday as an act of protest over the nation's stringent anti-gay laws.

City leaders, bar owners and LGBT rights activists lined a Santa Monica Boulevard sidewalk with Russian-branded vodka bottles in hand and ceremoniously poured out the clear liquid - which was actually water in order to avoid environmental impact.

The message of dissidence, however, was still clear.

"We come together to stand up against Russia's treatment of its LGBT people," said bar owner Michael Niemeyer in a statement. "While we can't be on the streets of Russia protesting the recent anti-LGBT legislation, we can show support by not selling Russian brands."

Some of the city's bar owners vowed to pull popular Russian-made vodkas, including Stolichnaya and Russian Standard, from their shelves, along with other vodkas containing Russian ingredients.

"We can't just stand by watching gay teenagers getting beaten in the streets, police doing nothing and the entire West kind of shrugs its shoulders," said West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran.  "When we do nothing on issues like this, very bad policies happen and very devastating consequences occur."

Public activities between homosexuals, such as hand-holding, wearing a rainbow pin or providing information about the gay community to minors, are banned under Russia's new law. Anyone caught breaking the law could face fines or jail time.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi,  the International Olympic Committee, athletes and activists are questioning the country's policy toward gays and lesbians.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the new law will be enforced during the games, despite assurance from the International Olympic Committee that neither athletes nor visitors to the games would be subject to discrimination under the law.

The contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin last month.

The owner of Stoli, Luxembourg-based SPI Group, has been a supporter of gay rights and critical of Putin. It also bottles Stoli in Latvia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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