The news: Students at Wesleyan University took to the streets Sunday, Jan. 26 and dumped bottles of Coca-Cola onto the ground in protest of the soft drink company's sponsorship of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The "Anything But Coke" movement at Wesleyan includes an all-out boycott of Coca-Cola products. For LGBT groups like QueerWes, the point is to send a message to Coke and other brands that students won't tolerate corporate sponsorship of discriminatory laws. Students are protesting now, organizer Jeff Kasanoff says, because "as soon as the Olympics are over, people are going to forget about this issue outside of Russia."
The protests have made their way across the Atlantic, too. Trinity College in Ireland has instituted a ban on Coke products.
But it isn't just soft drinks: Coke is the latest corporation to fall prey to LGBT protesters denouncing anti-gay laws in Russia, but it's not the first. Last week, protesters took over a McDonald's social media campaign using the Twitter hashtag #CheersToSochi and filled the company's feed with comments against McDonald's support for the Olympic games.
Though sponsors of the Sochi games attempt to ease protests by ensuring that they support equal rights and denounce discrimination – Coke posted a message on its Facebook page stating that it stands for "love, equality and happiness" – demonstrators want companies to put their money where their mouth is. Coke, for instance, is invested in Russia to the tune of $3 billion over five years. There's a lot of money at stake for the Olympics' corporate sponsors. For members and supporters of the LGBT community, though, that money is sponsoring discriminatory anti-gay laws.
As the Olympics draw near, protests like the "Anything But Coke" campaign and McDonald's #CheersToSochi will likely grow in prevalence. And though sponsors aren't going to be pulling their support for the Olympics any time soon, demonstrations can send a clear message. Check out this re-made vintage Coke ad by Queer Nation NY. As the group says, "Coke cares only about their Sochi profits."