Activists associated with ACT UP / NY disrupted Stoli Vodka's "Most Original Stoli Guy" event last night, July 30, at Splash Bar in Chelsea.
The group of less than a dozen people stood shouting in front of a crowd of over 150 attendees, bearing signs that read "Russia Kills Gays," "Boycott Russia," and "Dump Stoli."
Security quickly rushed the protestors, shredding their signs and forcibly expelling them from the bar, Gay City News reports. As can be heard in the video above, Splash's drag queen hostess angrily states, “Look at these assholes being taken out of the bar. Bye assholes! This is America not Russia," as the demonstrators are being lead from the venue. Another host then attempts to frame the interruption as a marketing opportunity by claiming, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is exactly what happens when you do not drink Stoli vodka."
ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is an HIV awareness and advocacy group initially formed in the 1980s as "a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis."
At its foundation, the protest stems from a series of anti-gay legislative bills recently passed in Russia's Parliament, as well as extreme and escalating violence against LGBT-identifying individuals over the past several months. As persecution of LGBT Russian citizens has garned attention on the world stage, numerous gay bars and individuals have engaged in an international protest of Stoli Vodka in response to this government-sponsored marginalization and violence.
The international backlash has had little effect on Russian legislators, one of whom announced yesterday that gay athletes and attendees of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games could very well face both imprisonment and detainment.
Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev recently told HuffPost Gay Voices' Michelangelo Signorile that in response to the boycott the company would be making a financial donation to an unspecified group working on behalf of Russian LGBT activists fighting against the Russian government’s anti-gay policies.
According to GayCityNews, an additional demonstration is planned for noon today at Manhattan's Russian consulate. The event is being organized by Queer Nation, a New York-based direct action organization, and RUSA LGBT (the Russian-Speaking American LGBTQ Association).
Splash bar is set to close on August 10 of this year.