Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

Well, that didn't take long.

Oakland police did what they do best, becoming a violent thug brigade that teargassed peaceful protesters in a local version of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and tent cities.

"Late last night, Oakland police, under orders from the city, began surrounding the Occupy Oakland encampment in preparation to oust the protesters from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Approximately an hour ago, hundreds of Oakland police officers raided the camp. Dressed in riot gear, the police used rubber bullets, flash grenades, and gas canisters to forcibly evict and/or arrest the demonstrators who remained in the plaza."

Here are some eyewitness reports and videos.

And this is what happened a day later: twenty times as many people protesting the violent police actions. Photo by Brenda Norrell:

The whole world is watching.

Tonight, I saw a musical about "hippies" fighting war, racism, capitalism and teargas. Sound familiar, Oakland, San Francisco, the world?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's Be Frank

Franklin Edward "Frank" Kameny (May 21, 1925 – October 11, 2011) was "one of the most significant figures" in the American gay rights movement. In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s".

Kameny protested his firing by the U.S. Civil Service Commission due to his homosexuality, and argued this case to the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Although the court denied his petition, it is notable as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation. He died of natural causes on October 11, 2011.

In August 1961, Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, an organization that pressed aggressively for gay and lesbian civil rights. In 1963 the group was the subject of Congressional hearings initiated by Congressman John Dowdy over its right to solicit funds.

Kameny is credited with bringing an aggressive new tone to the gay civil rights struggle. Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington pressed for fair and equal treatment of gay employees in the federal government by fighting security clearance denials, employment restrictions and dismissals, and working with other groups to press for equality for gay citizens. In 1968, Kameny, inspired by Stokely Carmichael's creation of the phrase "Black is Beautiful," created the slogan "Gay is Good" for the gay civil rights movement.

In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History included Kameny's picket signs carried in front of the White House in 1965, in the Smithsonian exhibit "Treasures of American History." The Smithsonian now has 12 of the original picket signs carried by gay and lesbian Americans at this, the first ever White House demonstration. (source: Wikipedia)

I last met Frank Kameny in Los Angeles in 2000. Frank was seated outside a movie theatre, holding a small sign that read BOYCOTT COORS. From his little folding chair, he told me that the gay film festival OutFest was still taking money from the rightwing-owned beer corporation. While I wasn't actually "supporting" the festival, since I had comp tickets, I felt dirty through the entire screening (of a forgettable 'light comedy').

There he was, the grandfather of gay rights, still keeping the struggle going, in the face of an army of tanned, veneered "new gays," more concerned with their reel than what's real.

Well, they won't be remembered the way Frank is this week.

The Washington Blade:
“Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice.” - Chad Griffin, board president for the American Federation for Equal Rights

ABC News:
"While so many have been impatient about the pace of progress, there was Frank, insisting we recognize that, in the last two years, he was regularly invited as a guest of honor by the very government that fired him simply for being gay," said a statement by Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Associated Press via Edge Media:
"Being gay has become infinitely better than it was," he said earlier this year when documents from his collection of gay rights history went on display for the first time at the Library of Congress. "The fundamental theme underneath all of that is simply equality."

"Nearly fifty years ago, the United States Government banned me from employment in public service because I am a homosexual. This archive is not simply my story; it also shows how gay and lesbian Americans have joined the American mainstream story of expanded civil liberties in the 20th century. Today, by accepting these papers, the nation preserves not only our history but marks how far gay and lesbian Americans have traveled on the road to civil equality." Frank Kameny

has more links and quotes.

CNN did an expansive feature on Kameny.

Frank's legacy may be overshadowed by the over-promoted and much less worthy.

To the overpaid executives at the allegedly pro-gay nonprofits? Be more like Frank and less like the equivocating suits you cowtow to.

To the large gay media that wouldn't dare put a senior on its cover, let alone an actual homosexual: be more like Frank.

To the deranged "street artists" who don't know the difference between vandalism and activism: Let's be frank. You're idiots.

To the narcissistic self-promoting gay celebutantes who can't post a single picture on Facebook that isn't of themselves, you're un-Frank, and an un-friend.

To the "gay" TV networks that vomit out a cascade of vicious stereotypical nobodies whose only achievement is arriving on camera where there's an open bar: Let's be frank. You're a bunch of douchebags.

None of us has done half as much as Frank did. But we can aspire to be like Frank.

Grapplers. Made from Good Stuff.

Harvard's wrestling team made a little show of support on National Coming Out Day by sporting various T-shirts and buttons with pro-gay phrases.

The Harvard Crimson reports:

Before their Tuesday afternoon practice, members of the Harvard varsity wrestling team posed for a picture on the steps in front of the Malkin Athletic Center. But instead of sporting their team uniforms in this photo, the athletes came in gay pride attire and rainbow pins that read “Proud Ally.”

In honor of National Coming Out Day, the men chose to wear the pins in solidarity with the BGLTQ community.

Harvard College Queer Students and Allies co-president Emma Q. Wang ’12 said that this year the student group wanted to emphasize the importance of coming out as an ally.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to be very vocal as an ally,” she said. “We want them to feel included because they play such an important role.”

According to wrestler David J. Lalo ’13, it was a non-resident tutor in Lowell House, Robert Joseph “R.J.” Jenkins, who inspired the team to participate in National Coming Out Day.

What a bunch of sweeties!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walled Streets

It seems the near-media blackout over coverage of the Occupy Wall street protests has opened up to a diffuse grey. Two weeks after the protests over financial corruption began, corporate media entities have a taken an adequate, if not jaded, glance.

Yahoo News:

More than 1,000 people marched past City Hall and arrived at a plaza outside police headquarters in the late afternoon. Some held banners criticizing police, while others chanted: "We are the 99 percent" and "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Workers from the financial district on their way home watched as the marchers passed, with some saying it was not obvious what outcome organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement wanted.

Police observed the march and kept protesters on the sidewalk, but no clashes were reported. Police said no arrests were made before the protest dispersed peaceably by 8 p.m. after the march.

"No to the NYPD crackdown on Wall St. protesters," organizers had said on their website, promoting the march. Other online flyers for the march read: "No to Stop-and-Frisk in Black & Latino neighborhoods" and "No to Spying and Harassment of Muslim Communities."

The protest came less than a week after police arrested 80 people during a march to the bustling Union Square shopping district, the most arrests by New York police at a demonstration since hundreds were detained outside the Republican National Convention in 2004.

A police commander used pepper spray on four women at last weekend's march and a video of the incident went viral on the Internet, angering many protesters who vowed to continue their protests indefinitely.

Police have said pepper spray was a better alternative than night sticks to subdue those blocking traffic.

It was only after excessive force was used that the protests got any large-scale notice.

And while it's endearing to see all the funky homemade protest signs, since many of them are almost illegible, perhaps the most striking visual moment was when about 700 hundred Continental and United pilots, joined by additional pilots from other Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers, demonstrated in front of Wall Street on September 27. The uniformity of signs, and, well, uniforms, really had an impact.

I mean, damn. Busby Berkley couldn't have done it better.

Other unions are joining in.
Here's a photo album.

UPDATE: 400 Arrested at Protests
Police reopened the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday evening after about 400 anti-Wall Street protesters were arrested for blocking traffic lanes and attempting an unauthorized march across the span.

The arrests took place when a large group of marchers, participating in a second week of protests by the Occupy Wall Street movement, broke off from others on the bridge's pedestrian walkway and headed across the Brooklyn-bound lanes.