Photo: Tom Andrews
We first learned about Mark Oshiro while following his Twitter updates as he marched on the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles last week. Under the name Panasonicyouth, he provided other protesters and interested folks with a play by play of what was happening. Then an update appeared: “Holy shit some asshole in a truck” and he went silent. In a sign of how much the internet is shaping the protests, Twitter users spread news that something had happened to Oshiro and even ABC7 got involved in the story.
Hours later, another update: “pacific station. arrested. help”. Oshiro, who along with his co-worker Richard Flores, was released later that night and are facing charges from the LAPD.Â Queerty asked him about the experience, what happens now and his advice to future protesters.
QUEERTY: I know you can’t talk about the events leading up to your arrest, but can you tell me what happened after?
Mark Oshiro: Richard and I were both arrested after trying to help Maurice Carriere (the protester assaulted by the guy in the truck with the Yes on 8 poster). For what? We didn’t know, as we weren’t told (definitively) what our charges were going to be for over two and a half hours. We spent a lot of time handcuffed to a bench with our heads against a wall. My blog entry on the ordeal goes into detail more about the whole experience, but suffice to say it was pretty traumatizing, especially when you learn you’re charged with battery on a peace officer. I mean, really, I couldn’t imagine a worse charge.
My brother thankfully bailed me out around 11:30pm and my best friend Ramon was kind enough to bail Richard out (literally) right before midnight. If he had been 5 minutes later, Richard would have had to stay in jail all night.
Why were you protesting? I know that sounds like an obvious question, but I think it’s one people want to know.
Both gay rights and civil rights are important issues to me, so I’ve been protesting various causes since I was in high school. I had learned of the protest outside the Mormon temple at the rally the night before in West Hollywood. I felt there was nothing more symbolic than protesting outside of a church that told its followers to pass a proposition that didn’t affect them, but affected those they were voting against. I’d met gay couples who had become married since our state Supreme Court had overturned Prop 22 and saw how destroyed they were that their marriage license might be dissolved because of a popular vote. It seemed, to me, to be imperative that, as a gay man and as an activist, I show up and give my support and my voice to those who didn’t have it or who it needed it in unison with theirs.
You were Twittering while protesting and while you were arrested, people started talking about what was happening to you via Twitter. When did you find out you’d become an internet sensation? How did you feel?
Oh man, thank the LORD for Twitter. I don’t know if anyone would have even known Rich and I were in jail if it wasn’t for that godsend. I had no idea if anyone knew what happened to us, so while I was being booked in, I asked for my phone to get phone numbers out to call my brother and my mom. (This wasn’t actually a lie; I seriously didn’t know their numbers.) While the officer was talking to the booking officer, I tried to send a Twitter; my service went out immediately after I hit send. So I opened my web browser and tried sending one that way. I got the numbers out of my phone in the meantime and was then ordered to shut off my phone. And that’s when my infamous Twitter was sent out to the world: “pacific station. arrested. help.” Even when I Twitter, I’m melodramatic. Awesome.
It wasn’t until I was bailed out and turned on my phone that I realized the full scope of the last 11 hours. I literally had so many text messages my SIM card on my Sidekick went haywire. I had so many emails, it exceeded the capacity on my phone. Then my friends in the lobby all told me about the liveblog on Buzznet and the ridiculous Twitter strings and the existence of a video they described as “disturbing” and “horrifying.”
What’s going on with your case now?
I wish I knew! Richard and I spoke with the LA Gay and Lesbian Center’s legal department yesterday and set up a consultation meeting; we have an appointment with a Lambda Legal lawyer later this afternoon. So, as far as we know, we’re still charged with battery on a peace officer. Our court date is December 3rd.
All we’re doing is trying to spread the word about what happened to us and the importance of this issue, both here in California and in the rest of the country. Richard’s not too keen on the spotlight, but I myself am terrified of seeing this swept under the rug. I know how often cases like this fall off the radar so quickly and perhaps because I’m personally involved, I really don’t want to see this happen.
There are protests scheduled for tomorrow in New York and across the country. What words of advice do you have for demonstrators?
Don’t be anti-religious bigots, for one. Protest a church’s involvement in an election and protest their contribution to passing Prop 8. But don’t turn it into a free-for-all on that church’s tenets or members. One, it makes absolutely no sense to do that. Why protest the Mormon church’s practice of polygamy, which was outlawed AGES AGO? It’s no longer relevant. Why protest anything else they believe in? Protest what they did, not who they are.
Don’t be racist. While I don’t agree with the number of “70%” when it comes to how many people in the black community voted for Prop 8, there’s no denying the rampant homophobia that runs through that community. But holy fuck, please do not turn this into a racist tirade against black people. Not only is it not the point of the protest, but you’re perpetrating the same hatred and ignorance you’re charging them with. Grow up and be mature about your charges against them. Again, protest what they did, not who they are.
Do you plan on continuing to protest?
Absolutely. I went to the gigantic protest in Silverlake last Saturday; I’ll be attending a rally on the 15th, along with hundreds of thousands of other people around the world. And I’m trying to find a way to Sacramento on the 22nd to (hopefully) be one of a million people there.
I just plan on walking the opposite direction whenever I see riot gear.