The National Equality March’s organizers aren’t too thrilled about the planned Obama-HRC protest organized by the Gay Liberation Network and Queer Liberaction. But because Cleve Jones, Dan Choi, Kip Williams, Nicole-Murray Ramirez, Robin McGehee, and Tanner Efinger do not decide how all of D.C. will be run, they’ve got little say in the matter.
Originally, relations between NEM organizers and the protesting groups were cordial. National Equality March Executive Committee member Mark Reed even offered (as an individual, and not on behalf of the NEM) to buy a plane ticket for Queer Liberaction co-founder Blake Wilkinson just to help him get there. But then he reneged on that offer, via email, saying: “As someone that has been working extremely hard to help promote the march, I am very disappointed that you have not done jack shit to help. Instead, you are posting lies on your web site and facebook page about the organizers of this event.”
Indeed, Wilkinson and GLN Andy Thayer have been quite critical of the march. Thayer wrote that Jones & Co. were “targeting congressional districts and lobbying Congress in an effort to win legal equality, the organizers’ strategy looks suspiciously like a drive to elect and re-elect Democrats in the 2010 bi-elections, rather than make uncompromising demands on this President and his Congress.”
And the duo aren’t backing down from that stance, and are moving ahead with their 6pm protest in front of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday. In a new email to supporters, the two groups explain why: “HRC has been sucking in millions of dollars and building a fine headquarters filled with finely paid executives for years now, lobbying and cajoling the rich and powerful while winning practically no pro-LGBT legislation at the federal level. By contrast, street activist organizations like ACT UP in its heyday, with far fewer resources, won major gains like the Ryan White AIDS Care Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, in the teeth of opposition from the first Bush administration. We don’t need this president coming to fancy banquets to tell LGBT people how much he loves us. We need him to tell the rest of America that he will push hard – and expend real political capital – to not only pass an inclusive ENDA, but to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to make sure that the pro equal-employment-rights message seeps into every town in America, thereby creating not just legal change but, more importantly, social change.”
They add: “For too many years the LGBT movement has been the plaything of the Democratic Party. Courted for money and votes when they needed us, abused and disrespected once they’re in power. Indeed, some of the worst attacks on our community have come when the Democrats controlled most of the levers of power. … If we are going to make civil rights progress today we need to learn how previous generations have made sweeping gains. They did it not by becoming beholden to either party but by making demands on both parties. As the great anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass put it, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’”
So why are Cleve & Co. not so happy about the protest? Technically, HRC’s annual dinner that Obama is speaking at is not an “official” NEM event. It’s not even listed on their events calendar. But the protest will go down during NEM’s weekend, and will show the supposed radical side of LGBT activism. That’s a bad image for such a high-profile event. Nevermind that the NEM march, itself, is a demonstration for all the world to see. But GLN/QL’s protest also gives the anti-gay troops more fuel, because they get to write the headline “Even gays hate Obama.” Then again, they already managed to drum up the “Obama doesn’t support gay marriage” storyline.” Which is true.