Monday, February 19, 2007

Hundreds Rally To Fight Discrimination

More than 500 people rallied at the State House this afternoon to fight government efforts to discriminate against Indiana's GLBT citizens. Candace Gingrich, half-sister to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, keynoted today's event. A big thanks to all those who worked hard in putting together today's rally. It appeared most of the local news media was on hand to cover today's event. Hopefully, there will be some good news coverage. My only disappointment was that no legislators addressed the large group. Here are some photos I captured. Click here for the Star's first take on it.
UPDATE: WTHR and WRTV's coverage of today's rally included a protest that took place after the rally. It began outside a first floor office where House Democrats were thought to be caucusing, but when the IAN protesters learned the caucus was actually taking place on the third floor, they moved to the door leading into House Speaker Pat Bauer's office according to WRTV's Norm Cox, demanding that Bauer come out and address the group. The demonstration was led by Bilerico's Bil Browning, who is the head of IAN. That's when the protest took a turn for the ugly. Indiana Equality lobbyist Mark St. John is captured on camera forcefully grabbing Bil Browning by the shirt with both hands demanding that he end the protest. Browning was unswayed by St. John's efforts. Browning is employed by Lambda Consulting, St. John's lobbying firm. Although it is not audible on the video which ran on WRTV, witnesses say St. John told Browning he was fired. St. John reportedly rescinded that heated decision after he cooled off. This was how WRTV's Norm Cox described it:
After the speeches, attendees sought legislators for one-on-one talks. But when they learned that House Democrats were holding caucus meetings, some attendees -- predominantly younger ones -- went outside what they thought was the caucus room and got noisy, demanding an audience with House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend.

They stomped their feet and chanted "Pat, Pat, come out and talk," before realizing the room was empty. After they were told of the error, they congregated outside Bauer's office and resumed chanting.

Eventually, one of the older rally organizers, Mark St. John, grabbed the chanters' leader and gave what appeared to be forceful words. Shortly afterward, the protest ended. Although neither would divulge later what was said, it was clear that St. John was trying to end the protest, Cox reported.
Steph Mineart of Commonplace Book gives this eyewitness account of the incident in which she also describes a second incident where St. John physically grabbed one of the IYG youth present during the protest:
I happened to be standing right there (you can see me in the video), so I heard what St. John said -- he fired Bil from his job at Lambda Consulting because Bil "betrayed his trust" in not getting permission for the impromptu protest at Bauer's office. A while later, after he calmed down, he said that wasn't going to happen, but I'm not sure what the repercussions will be in the future.

Incidentally, I also saw St. John grab and physically drag by the arm another protester - one of the IYG youth, I believe - away from the protest to have a heated debated about why the Democrats were in caucus - St. John was claiming that it had nothing to do with the Rally or SJR-7. I'm not sure I believe St. John's claims about why the "caucus" happened. I do know that Representative Orentlicher, who was at the rally and at the impromptu protest after, was actively trying to get Bauer to come out and speak to the protesters.
It is sad to see this sort of public dispute between leaders of the GLBT community. I share the IAN demonstrators' determination to be heard by lawmakers on this issue, but I have to say this sort of demonstration does not work with House Speaker Pat Bauer, or a lot of the lawmakers for that matter. On the other hand, St. John's actions' in full public view were far more offensive. He was understandably concerned about how the protest might damage GLBT relations with Bauer, but he should have expressed himself in a more diplomatic fashion.
I recall when I paged at the Illinois House of Representatives as a teen-ager, the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was still in full swing. A group of ERA protesters formed a human chain blocking the doors to the House chambers. Demonstrators had to be carried away, and they eventually resorted to a sit-in, which went on for days. In the end, it didn't change a single legislator's vote and the ERA went down to defeat.
A separate report from WISH-TV with video can be accessed here.


Wilson46201 said...

While the comments in here are quiescent so far, the battle is joined in the "Talkback" feature of the Indpls Star article. Already some yahoo has suggested shooting gays to eliminate the problem.


Anonymous said...

You sure about that? I saw some whack 'suggestions' like islands and camps, but no shooting

garyj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garyj said...

How about just ignoring the idiots with closed minds? Maybe they will understand someday that not everyone is like them and see people for WHO they are, not WHAT they are!
The only ones that should be shot, are the little green invaders that visit us in space ships.
(yes, they are real)

Wilson, I notice you didn't reply to my comment on a previous post.
What happened, you mad at me?

Anonymous said...

Grabbing the IYG youth was way over the top. Mark St John has a very ugly temper that he needs to get in check. It is going to bite him in the ass hard one of these days and grabbing the student may be the straw that breaks that camels back. Very ugly end to what was an otherwise great rally.

Anonymous said...

I didn't get the name of the young man that he grabbed and dragged by the arm, but it's the young guy you see in the foreground in the very first frame of the video that I grabbed of the protest and posted on my site. Bil probably knows who he is...

Anonymous said...

The lawmakers should have taken the time to talk with the people that this amendment affects. Pathetic.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Lori, I can't speak to the timing of the caucus. I hope it wasn't particularly timed to coincide with the activities surrounding the rally. Part of the planning for these events is to make sure key lawmakers are aware of your plans to be in the State House and the desire to meet with lawmakers. I'm not sure what efforts were made in that respect, although the rally was well-publicized in advance. I wouldn't have read much into the caucus but for the fact not a single lawmaker addressed the rally. If a pro-gun rally were held in the State House, they would have been tripping overthemselves to get up on the platform.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you Gary, it does seem very suspect.

Anonymous said...

What Gary is trying hard to be diplomatic about is:

The rally planners did nothing to notify the legislators we were going to be in the statehouse yesterday, or so it would appear. Or:

Caucuses are held almost every Monday. Rarely are those caucuses a surprise. When planning such a rally, wht not seek out both caucuses' leaders and ask politely that no such caucus be scheduled? Or, schedule the rally another day?

Attendance was so-so anyway...moving it wouldn't have made much of a difference.

The planning for this rally, while erstwhile, was sophomoric. It was not the job of volunteer board members to do this legwork. It was the job of paid lobbyists and professionals. And I use those terms loosely.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:30 tells it like it is, that the planning of this rally was sophomoric and that the paid lobbyists for IE, St John and Joanette, should have known better when it came to getting GLBT community members in front of their representatives. That's what they're being paid by IE to do.

The rally was nice, but having constituents actually talking with their representative is much more effective than a rally that mainly brought out the haters on the comments section of the Star's coverage. Poor leadership and planning for this rally negated the possible positive impact it should have had with legislators.

True, too, St John's attack on the kid from IYG was unacceptable. This from the same guy who put thousands of HIV+ people on the street due to his mismanagement of Indiana Cares a few years ago and who uses IE donations for contributions to Woody Burton -- one of the most homophobic House members ever.

AI/Gary has more than once expressed his concerns about IE and why he doesn't contribute money to them. It's all about leadership.

Remember Pepper Partin and the great rally she organized? These same community "leaders" who head up IE harassed her throughout that process and refused to help her. Chris Douglas even threatened her (then on the day of the rally, which turned out to be hugely successful, Douglas had the audacity to jump up onto the speakers platform in an effort to be photographed with Pepper as though he'd been part of the successful rally's planning.) After that, the term "Indianapolis gay mafia" was coined.

We deserve better

Anonymous said...

I'd caution against using the word attack to describe what I saw - that's a pretty loaded word, and could exaggerate the incident.

St. John started arguing with the young man nearby me, in front of the cameras, and as soon as I heard the discussion was about the caucus, I stepped closer because I wanted to hear Mark's explanation. His response was angry and heated, and he realized both the cameras and I were nearby, so he grabbed the young man's elbow and pulled him out of the crowd and over near the windows so he could yell at him.

I did find the whole thing disturbing; it seemed coercive and out of bounds to me enough that I kept my eye on the two of them through the rest of their conversation because I was unsure of whether to walk over and step in.

I also don't know for sure if the young man was from IYG, because there were also college students there from IU and Ball State, some of whom are in IYG also. Either way he was in his late teens or early twenties and with the crowd of young men and women.

Anonymous said...

I want to know more about this supposed contribution to Woody Burton by IE????? What are the facts.

Wilson46201 said...

IE donated no money whatsoever to Woody Burton. None! Individuals associated with IE may have donated to a plethora of candidates for a variety of business-related reasons. Eli Lilly donates to Julia Carson and she's no friend of Big Pharma...