02/06/2014 23:00 EST | Updated 04/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Gay rights activists rally at Russian consulate

Dozens of gay rights activists rallied outside Toronto's Russian consulate tonight — calling on sponsors of the Winter Olympics to speak out against Russia's controversial laws on homosexuality. 

Toronto is one of 19 cities around the world in which gay rights activists staged protests on Thursday, ahead of Friday's opening ceremonies in Sochi. 

"The Russian government needs to hear from people in Canada and around the world that its so-called 'gay propaganda' law is an outright assault on freedom and equality," said Richard Elliott, one of the organizers, in a statement. 

The consulate is just a few blocks from Church and Wellesley, the heart of Toronto's gay community, where protesters also rallied.