On Sunday, the LGBT community and their allies took to the streets…

October 13, 2009, 8:19 PM

On Sunday, thousands came out into the streets to demonstrate in support of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. I’ve always considered this to be a bit of a no-brainer. What part of “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” in the Fourteenth Amendment do some people not understand? Obviously, to some, all people are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

Thus we had the National Equality March. We marched for civil rights for the LGBT community in all fifty states. I’m not gay, but equal protection under the laws for LGBT individuals, including the right to marry whomever they wish, is something I feel very strongly about. After all, marriage in a legal sense has nothing to do with any alleged supreme being, or even anything to do with love. The minister on Spaceballs had it right when he said, “I am trying to conduct a wedding here, which has nothing to do with love.” While love certainly makes a marriage last, marriage ultimately is a contract between two people. And as a contract, it falls under the law, which according to the US Constitution, must apply equally to all.

Ahead of the march, much of DC’s radical community was deciding how it was going to handle the march. Of course, we support the underlying concept, but some of our views differ from the mainstream. Calls for pink-and-black blocs were put out, and ultimately there were two locations tossed about. One was for a pink-and-black bloc meeting on the Ellipse at 10 AM on Sunday. Another called for a pink-and-black bloc to meet at Dupont Circle at 11:00. As I considered the Ellipse location a little far-flung as far as Metro accessibility went, and a little bit early, I chose the Dupont Circle location. Thus I took Metro from Wheaton to Dupont Circle and arrived a bit early – around 10:30. I was early, but better to be early and waiting at the appointed location than to be waiting on the train hoping to make it on time, or to be late and potentially miss what I was going for in the first place.

Just after 11:00, I saw what I was looking for. A bunch of people wearing all black and pink “shirt ninja” masks arrived. And they came armed with two banners:

"Kiss Capitalism Goodbye" banner

Note the British spelling of "sodomise" as compared to the American spelling "sodomize". I'm told it was inadvertent, but it's still technically correct, so all is well.

Note the British spelling of “sodomise” as compared to the American spelling “sodomize”. I’m told it was inadvertent, but it’s still technically correct, so all is well.

We took the name Bash Back! for this march. We also had a number of anti-HRC signs, since the HRC is just about as bad as the generally spineless Democrats in Congress. The HRC is a little bit too ruling-class for comfort, is a bit too chummy with the Democratic Party (including giving President Obama a seven-year pass before judging his progress), and doesn’t do enough for transgendered individuals.

After everyone who hadn’t yet masked up finished doing so, we got our hellos out of the way and planned what we were going to do. The idea of taking independent direct action never really came up – we simply wanted a radical presence at the mainstream march, marching as a bloc, and that was fine. The big question was how we were going to get there. I suggested Connecticut Avenue to K Street for our feeder march, and that seemed to go well with everyone.

Meanwhile, I learned why it is never a good idea to mask up with a new, unwashed bandanna. It was not very breathable, and the knot was constantly slipping. I bought a pink-camouflage bandanna specifically for this event on my way to the Anon raid the day before, and it didn’t do all that well because it still had all the “new” on it. Next time, I wash first before wearing.

We ended up hanging out in Dupont until 11:30, and then we marched. As we had less than ten people, taking the street was out of the question, so we took the sidewalks:

Pink-and-black bloc on its way  Pink-and-black bloc on its way

The march got a little cumbersome with our banners at times, though, as we had to avoid obstacles and pedestrians as we proceeded. Jeff joined us when we reached K Street. But we made it, and found a spot in the crowd once we arrived. There, we made sure our message got out:

I started out holding the banner, but I’m not much of a banner holder, though. I ultimately ended up standing out in front of the banner, helping enforce a clear space in front of our banner for visibility. It also allowed me to get some nice footage of our bloc in action, waiting to move, and as we made a few steps:

Here, a girl named Bergit joined us for our march. Bergit was awesome, and while she was dressed like the mainstream demonstrators, she knew what she was doing in a black bloc (unlike Rachel and Amy in 2007). She had a sign that said “Out of the closets! Into the street!” and a shirt that said, “This is what an activist looks like”:

Bergit at the National Equality March
(This photo was taken a little bit later than where I’m describing it, but you get the idea)

And eventually, the march got going in earnest. As we approached Lafayette Square near the White House, we spotted a counter-protester. He took a religious spin on it, and spoke into a bullhorn. He was exercising his right to free speech, and so we exercised ours – right in front of him, blocking him and his sign with our banner, plus beating a drum to try and drown out his bullhorn. Here’s the guy:

And here we are:

And as you can see, we had a lot of people going past:

The response from the crowd was a bit mixed. We were so effective in visually blocking the counter-protester, but less so with the man’s bullhorn, that some people thought we were the counter-protesters, despite the “God doesn’t hate” and “Jesus was an anarchist” chants. In thinking we were the counter-protesters, some people questioned the masks, though it’s part of the standard black bloc “uniform”. By this point, I was sick and tired of fighting with the slippage of the unwashed bandanna, and so I was like, screw it and just let it hang down. I’m sure that the much-more-than-usual whiskers I was sporting didn’t help things, either.

After the entirety of the march passed us, we took a shortcut. The crowd went the long way around Lafayette Square to the east, but we cut through. And on the other side was noted conservative activist Randall Terry, and so we repeated the same procedure as before, attempting to block him out visually and auditorily. So here’s Randall Terry:

Randall Terry

And here we are, along with a large contingent from the mainstream march, shouting “SHAME! SHAME!”:

Our efforts were later stymied by a group of Park Police on horses. The group ended up staying with Randall Terry until a march organizer convinced us to continue, since in the larger scheme of things, we were not doing the movement any favors by concentrating our efforts on a lone wackadoodle:

And so we officially started marching down Pennsylvania Avenue:

The bloc joins the march on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bloc joins the march on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol was remarkably uneventful, compared to our earlier run-ins with counter-protesters.

Upon reaching the Capitol, our group started to break up. Honestly, no one really wanted to attend the rally on the west lawn of the Capitol. If you’re in a black bloc in the first place, it’s usually to engage in techniques resembling direct action. Honestly, a post-march rally is basically preaching to the choir, trying to convince people who already agree with you, in front of a building that was more than likely nearly empty on a Sunday afternoon. So we bid each other goodbye, and exchanged contact information for future actions. We told our National Lawyers Guild legal observer that we were finished, and broke off. After all, our work was done. We had maintained a radical presence at the march, and blocked counter-protesters.

The only problem was the “Sodomise Assimilation” banner. The keeper of that banner had to leave the march early, and so I ultimately took responsibility for its safe return. When we finished, we folded up the banner, and I carried it under my arm.

After the bloc was done, I made a pass around the rally in order to see what was going on. As you can see, there was a good showing at the rally:

And some of the shirts and signs I saw were awesome:


And that was basically it. From here, I headed to Union Station, and caught the Metro back to Wheaton.

All in all, this march was a lot of fun. The message was very positive, and everyone was very friendly. The black bloc was not as “hardcore” as some black blocs I’ve been in, and that was fine. It went well with the tone of the day. I think part of the reason this march was so fun and full of awesome was because we weren’t advocating against an issue. We were advocating for an issue, in this case, civil rights for LGBT individuals. Hopefully, by our coming out in the street, we’ve given this matter a big push in the right direction…

Web site: "Making a Federal Case for Gay Rights" in The Washington Post

Song: My YouTube playlist for this event. Not all of these videos are embedded in the entry, so take a look...

Quote: Meanwhile, this march's similar format to the teabagger march last month inevitably led to comparisons. I was one of the few who attended both events, though I admit I only attended the teabagger event for the lulz. All in all, the message of the National Equality March was far more positive, all the signs were spelled correctly, and the people were friendlier. The numbers in attendance were comparable.

Categories: Activism, Black bloc