Russia Bans The Display Of The LGBTQ Pride Flag, So Activists Got Creative At The World Cup

“For LGBTQ people, visibility is a huge risk in Russia …”

What better time and place to spread love and celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ community than at the World Cup in Russia during Pride Month? That's the exact thought behind a viral stunt that saw six activists secretly wearing the rainbow flag, a symbol near and dear to LGBTQ people — despite the country's ban of it.

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The idea is pretty simple: six people don soccer — or football, if you like — jerseys around Russia in plain sight, meaning that they, by standing in the correct order, flaunted the rainbow flag in front of Russia and, essentially, the rest of the world. This is a big deal because, in Russia at least, displaying the Pride flag can get you arrested.

Credit: Javier Tles

The courageous people who took part were: Marta Márquez, a Spanish writer and president of GALEHI Association of LGBT Families; Eric Houter, a Dutch estate agent; Eloi Pierozan Junior, a Brazilian marketing manager; Guillermo León, a Mexican office worker and documentary maker; Vanesa Paola Ferrario, an Argentinian audiovisual editor; and Mateo Fernández Gómez, a Columbian advertising art director. To protect the participants, they got in and out of Russia before the project debuted.

Credit: Javier Tles

"When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in 1978, he did so to create a symbol and an icon for the LGBT community," the site dedicated to the viral stunt reads. "Unfortunately, 40 years later, there are still countries in which homosexuality is persecuted, sometimes even with jail sentences, and in which the rainbow flag is forbidden. Russia is one of these countries."

Credit: Javier Tles

The idea came together thanks to FELGTB (Spain's main LGBT organization), elDiario.es (a Spanish online newspaper), and LOLA MullenLowe (a digital ad agency in Spain). The project — titled "Hidden Flag" — was photographed by Javier Tles, the production house was Primo Content, and it was directed by Michelle Cassis.

Credit: Javier Tles

"For LGBTQ people, visibility is a huge risk in Russia, but doing it in front of thousands of fans and reporters during the World Cup is smart and provocative," Uge Sangil, president of FELGTB Spain, said in a statement to A Plus. "The 'Hidden Flag' challenges discriminatory laws and aims to pressure for change. The project gives visibility to ALL of the brave people who face discrimination, silencing, and fear on a daily basis in Russia and other parts of the world where LGBTQ people are persecuted or marginalized."

Credit: Javier Tles

Not all heroes wear capes — some wear differently colored jerseys.

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