Gay Anti-Bush Group Plans Convention Actions

Gays Against Bush, the ad hoc group organized to put together a gay-specific response to the Republican National Convention in New York, has settled on three actions to protest the anti-gay policies of the GOP.

On Sunday, August 29, the group is assembling one of the many ancillary marches into the massive United for Peace and Justice “World Says No to Bush” procession that will go past Madison Square Garden, the convention site. The contingent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protesters will gather in Sheridan Square at 11 a.m. and proceed uptown to become a part of the larger march.

Since the New York Police Department has refused to grant permits for any of the secondary marches, Gays Against Bush is emphasizing that for theirs to be a legal march, it must stay on sidewalks and respect traffic lights. The group has no plans to engage in civil disobedience by taking over the street.

Ray Dries, a group organizer, sought a permit to march in the street, but was turned down. He said that “Lt. Cameco” of Midtown South said that marchers “risked summonses,” a threat that Dries felt was an effort to intimidate him into not marching. When Dries pressed Cameco about the arrest threat, he said the lieutenant replied, “I didn’t say anything about that.”

Despite the lack of a permit, the thirty people who showed up at the LGBT Community Center last Tuesday to make final plans endorsed two other actions as well.

At 12:30 p.m. on August 29, some Gays Against Bush members will go to Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue at 41st Street to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is hosting a reception for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political club, expected to be attended by Republican moderates such as Gov. George Pataki, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Ann Northrop, the lead organizer of the anti-Bloomberg action, emphasized that it is not a protest against Log Cabin, which will announce whether it will support George Bush’s reelection effort after the convention, but against the mayor’s vetoes of two bills, a landmark benefits law for the partners of those who work for city contractors, and a school bullying law that includes specific provisions on sexual orientation and gender identity.

While campaigning for mayor, Bloomberg voiced support for a range of gay intiatives, but activists have said that his record indicates a different approach, citing the mayor’s annual march down Fifth Avenue in the exclusionary St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as using opposing the the city’s shareholder power to compel corporations to protect the rights of their LGBT employees. Bloomberg also supports the Boy Scouts of America, despite their policy of excluding gay members. Most egregiously, in the eyes of many gay New Yorkers, the mayor has continued to refuse to support same-sex marriage.

A third action is planned for Tuesday, August 31 at 5 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, at 270 W. 43rd St., where the Missouri delegation to the convention is staying. Missourians just overwhelmingly passed an amendment to their state Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag that has become the symbol of the LGBT community, has made banners and signs for the protests. He is planning a press conference at the LGBT Community Center on Tuesday at 11 a.m. to announce his project which are rainbow variations of all fifty state flags that can be downloaded in conjunction with the Center’s voter registration drive. “I’m sad about the state of what’s going on in this country,” Baker said. “Gay visibility is still an important thing.”

Mick Schommer of Williamsburg, a human rights activist, said he plans to protest the RNC with Gays Against Bush to ensure that LGBT people “have a gay presence in progressive actions.”

Manny Jimenez, originally from Texas, said his family in Texas and his partner in New York are all Republicans, unlike him, but that they are all voting against Bush this year.

The Audre Lorde Project, a Brooklyn-based program for lesbians of color, and Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men of New York, a group for Asian men of color, have announced that their contingents in the United for Peace and Justice march will meet at 9:45 a.m. on August 29 at Seventh Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets. They will also join the “Shall We Rise Poor People’s March” on Monday at 11:30 a.m. on West 13th Street between University Place and Broadway.

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