‘The Second Stonewall’: Five Days of Protest in California

Photo: Jonathan Alcorn
Photo: Jonathan Alcorn

In what more than one protester has described as “the second Stonewall”, Californians across the state have taken to the streets in spontaneous demonstrations to protest the passage of Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in May that allowed it. Here’s a brief rundown of the past five days:

Day One (Nov. 5th):

While the rest of the world celebrated the election of Barack Obama, opponents of Proposition 8 gathered in gay enclaves like West Hollywood and San Francisco to hold impromptu rallies. In Los Angeles, a group of approximately 1,500 people, mostly younger, left the rally while it was still ongoing and marched up to Sunset Boulevard, forcing street closures. Police managed to divide the group, keeping 2/3 within West Hollywood.

The remaining group marched to the CNN building in Hollywood and then up to Hollywood & Highland, L.A.’s version of Times Square, where police barricading the group from entering the intersection. A tense standoff ensued, with some protesters breaking through the police lines and two being beaten by the police with billy clubs.

In all, four separate groups, about 3,000 people total, marched throughout Hollywood, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood throughout the night, with protesters holding a sit down protest at Sunset and La Cienega til 2:30am. Seven people were arrested.

Day Two (Nov. 6th)

Protesters march on the Mormon Temple in Westwood at around 2pm at the LDS Temple in Westwood (the church having donated almost 1/2 of the money raised by the Yes on 8 campaign) and moved throughout the west side of L.A., prompting the LAPD to close streets and one exit of the 405. At one point, the LAPD tried to to corral protesters back into West Hollywood, only to have the crowd reverse on them en masse at the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire and head back to the Mormon temple. Traffic throughout the area was at a standstill most of the night.

While the protest was mostly peaceful, KCAL 9 reported that one woman, Jaime Meriwether, and her four friends were beaten by “Yes on 8” protesters and they showed footage of Mormons tearing down protest signs that had been placed on the fence of the temple. The Daily News reported that Maurice Carriere, a demonstrator, was punched in the face by a man in a pickup truck with a “Yes on 8” sign. Photos of Carriere and his attacker below, sent to us by flickr user takemytaco. Two people were arrested and another two were hospitalized.

Day Three (Nov. 7th)

The focus shifted to nearby Long Beach as 2000 protesters took to the streets. In what was becoming a trend, the protest refused to stay where police asked them to and the group marched onto Broadway, heading west for two miles before overtaking an intersection.  A spokesman for the LBPD told the L.A. Times that the force“were so outnumbered, we were concerned for their safety”. Seven arrests were made.

Day Four (Nov. 8th)

In the biggest day of protests yet, crowds across the state turned out in huge numbers. “Thousands” of people in San Francisco marched on Market Street, blocking traffic for a couple hours, but it was in Southern California where the largest and longest protests occurred. In San Diego an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets at noon for a 90 minute long protest with no arrests. In Los Angeles, 12,000 people turned out in Silver Lake to rally and march in a protest initially organized by anti-war group ANSWER L.A.

As the rally organizers and police encouraged people to go home, spontaneous activists took to bullhorns yelling “We didn’t come here to party! We need to make them see us!” and called for the protest to move to Hollywood and Highland. The police formed a barricade, preventing approximately 2000 people from moving up Sunset. As the crowd grew in size and became angrier, the police relented and retreated. Protesters marched up the street, through stalled traffic in jubilant celebration. After negotiating with police, who coordinated with the Department of Transportation, the protesters were allowed to march from Silver Lake to Hollywood and Highland.

Along the way, others joined the group, which swelled to approximately 4000. The group overtook the intersection for 45 minutes, before police moved them south. The crowd then continued along Sunset Boulevard and the Sunset Strip, arriving around 1:30 am. The crowd finally reached West Hollywood at 2pm, where it sat down blocking the intersection of San Vicente and Santa Monica while one of the marchers, Drew Barrymore, spoke.

Day Five (Nov.9th)

On the first Sunday since Prop. 8’s passage, protesters took to places of worship to make their voice heard. Nearly 300 protesters showed up outside the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. A protest in Oakland on the Mormon Temple forced police to close a nearby highway. Protesters also showed up outside the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, the state capitol in Sacremento and at the DVD premiere of Kung Fu Panda at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Protests continue to be planned and have spread to cities across the country.