Members of Queer Nation disrupted a panel discussion led by Russian officials promoting investment in Moscow at the Princeton Club of New York on Monday morning.
The New York-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group protested Russia’s history of laws discriminating against gays and lesbians, according to Queer Nation member Andrew Miller.
The University and the Princeton Club of New York are separate entities, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua clarified. The Princeton Club coordinates the events that take place in its facilities.
Representatives for the Princeton Club of New York did not respond to requests for comment.
The Kremlin has been criticized by domestic and international advocacy groups in recent months for a law signed by President Vladimir V. Putin in June that bans the distribution of “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors but which has been widely interpreted as a legislative attempt to dampen the country’s emerging gay rights movement.
Three protesters who attended the forum were escorted out of the room by security guards after their outbursts, while a fourth videotaped the scene, Queer Nation protester Duncan Osborne said. According to Queer Nation protester Mark Milano, approximately 40 people were at the event.
There were also protesters outside the event holding a 60-foot rainbow flag banner that read, “Support Russian Gays,” Miller said. Another banner read, “Stop Putin’s Lies,” Milano said.
“We decided to pay them a visit,” Miller said, “because we don’t think that Russian government officials should be able to come to New York City to solicit money and investments without being held accountable for their government’s anti-gay legislation and the atmosphere of oppression and violence that it engenders.”
Osborne said that he and the other two speakers — Milano and Queer Nation protester John Weir — got their tickets for the forum a few weeks ago and planned what they were going to say beforehand via email and at a meeting.
Osborne was the first to speak during the forum and asked the panelists about rule of law in Russia. Though the question was directed at the panelists, Osborne said that he also wanted the audience to pay attention.
“We wanted to make them aware of issues and matters that might prevent them or might make them reconsider the prospects of investing in Russia,” Osborne said. “My comments were intended to speak to the absence of rule of law in Russia and corruption in Russia, which in fact are very serious issues, and any smart investor would at least consider those before they considered putting their money in Russia.”
Milano, who spoke second, asked how people could invest in a country that is “actively oppressing gay people.” He said that “we” did not invest in South Africa during apartheid, so investors should not give money to Russia while LGBT people are being oppressed there.
Finally, Weir said that social welfare is “booming” in Russia and wanted to know if the welfare of LGBT Russians, or Russians thought to be LGBT, was booming as well. He cited a straight couple that was arrested in Moscow over the summer for appearing to be gay.
“I certainly think the room heard us,” Milano said. “At least the issue was still in their face. They were aware of the issue, and maybe some will think twice about, ‘Is this the best place to invest my money?’”
Though applause can be heard in the video of the event after Milano’s question, laughter and other comments — like “Gay culture should not be promoted” and “This is hilarious” — were also audible during the protest.
“Princeton should be aware that the Princeton Club, regardless of who is managing it, bears the Princeton name, and it reflects badly on Princeton when events like this are held there,” Milano said. “It’s shocking. I wish there had been some Princeton students there saying, ‘We don’t want the Princeton name affiliated with this.’”
The protesters’ questions and the responses can now be found on YouTube. The three videos collectively received more than 1,400 views as of Tuesday morning.