LGBT activists protest Russia Day at the New York Stock Exchange

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The New York Stock Exchange will be celebrating “Russia Day” on Monday, November 18, in order to promote economic investment in the state. Queer activists had something to say about it.

A graduate of New York University Law School, Bert Leatherman, has launched a campaign attacking the celebration from his current residence in Sao Paolo, Brazil. His Change.org petition against the event caused the president of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat, to cancel his scheduled keynote address at the Russia Forum NY investor’s conference.

Russia Forum NY, billed as a “series of discussions with a thematic emphasis on the Russian investment climate,” is the Russian state’s attempt to promote US investments in the Russian economy. It has come under attack by LGBT activists who see investing in a state so thoroughly embroiled in human and civil rights violations against their own community to be at odds with US interests.

The heat from LGBT activists has caused the New York City Mayor’s office to publicly disavow any ties to the Russian investment conference, and has led to Goodwin and Proctor LLC, a law firm in NY which was to host the conference, and the Russian officials planning to attend it, to pull their support for the forum as well.

“Recently, several troubling issues, including the Russian government’s anti-gay policies, were brought to our attention,” said a spokesman for Goodwin and Proctor, which boasts of their LGBT-inclusive policies on their website.

“These issues were discussed at length by Goodwin’s leaders, members of our Russian practice and the leaders of Goodwin’s longstanding partner-led LGBT committee. Based on these concerns and Mr. Silkenat’s withdrawal, we reached a decision [Monday] night that we could not provide space or support for the event and communicated that to the Russian Center.”

This is a large blow to the Russian investment forum, which is left without a site to conduct its conference just days before the event is supposed to take place.

However, there is one final piece to the Russian investment puzzle that has yet to be put in its place: Sergey Belyakov, Deputy Minister for Economic Development of the Russian Federation, is scheduled to ring the closing bell of the NYSE on November 18.

Queer Nation NY, a local queer political activist organization, already has a protest scheduled at the Federal Hall steps to greet the 4:00 pm ringing.

“Russian government officials will be ringing the Closing Bell at Wall Street,” reads the event page for the protest.

“We’ll be protesting the architects of Russia’s anti-gay laws being celebrated as heroes on Wall Street. Come help us hold our new 90-foot (!) rainbow banner: ‘Human Rights, YES! Russian, NYET!’”

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