Portland marchers demand equality

November 3, 2009

PORTLAND--Some 400 activists marched on October 24 for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) equal rights.

The march went to Casey's Bar, where a speak-out was held to protest hate crimes committed in front of the bar on June 14 during Gay Pride. Airick, the DJ from Blowpony, a gay dance night that used to be held at Casey's, described the incident in a statement he read at the Sexual Minorities Roundtable meeting on July 14:

When I came outside to make my way home, I saw that a friend of mine was talking with the Portland police. She had been punched in the face by a man who had been spouting homophobic remarks at her and another friend of mine. Her nose was broken, and the police had arrived to investigate this crime.

While I was watching this interaction, a group of men approached the scene, also shouting homophobic remarks. I walked up to them to ask them to leave the area, and the next thing I remember, I was on the ground with my mouth bleeding. I didn't really know or understand what had happened. I had been punched in the mouth and knocked out.

The Portland police were, at best, hostile to Airick and his friends.

The march continued from Casey's to East Burnside, a major roadway in downtown Portland, and then onto Terry Schrunk Plaza, where activists from the Portland Equal Rights Coalition (PERC) spoke about why we need a national movement the builds coalitions locally.

Speakers underlined that LGBTQ people and their allies need to get organized now to fight back against homophobia and laws that allow others to see us as less than human.

Dele Balogun, an International Socialist Organization member and founding member of PERC, kicked off the rally with a speech in which he challenged others to get involved. "This dangerous ideology is absorbed by extreme elements of the right wing, who use it and religion as a bludgeon with which to carry out its hate," Balogun said. "And although some Democrats may not have the spine to fight them, this vicious propaganda must be met with forceful truth and compassion, for this can no longer go unchallenged, it can no longer go unchecked."

Robert Moore, from PERC and Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, spoke about his experience of being kicked out of his house for being gay and struggling with homelessness at a young age. Chani Geigle-Teller, from PERC and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, encouraged people to come out as gay people and as activists. Tash Shatz, a transgender activist, spoke about the need for trans people to be included in the fight for equal rights.

PERC then opened up the stage for other marchers to participate in a speak-out against homophobia. For another hour, people of all ages and identities came to the stage to talk. Gay veterans, straight allies and high school students spoke about their ideas for the movement and experiences.

People stayed for the entire rally, listening to anyone who came up to the stage. Favorite chants were "Separate is what? Not equal!" and "LGBT! We demand Equality!"

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