“We can’t wait! Take the Streets!”

Yesterday was the second action which the Occupy Austin OccuQueers took in support of ENDA, the Executive Nondiscrimination Act. At our first action, we delivered pens and a letter to the Obama For America headquarters in a silent protest.

Since I started the OccuQueers as a way to begin conversations among LGBTQ occupiers, this working group has become one of the most active and effective in Occupy Austin, alongside our Bank Action, Welcome Wagon, and Occupy AISD (education) groups. On the ground, I hear from of occupiers eager for action. It is often said that a week feels like a month to the occupation, and it had been 9 days since we’d marched for May Day. Those of us who showed up were happy to get our activist fix.

It drizzled and rained all day, but the weather broke and the sun came out for just a few hours to let us march. By night, it was pouring down hard again. Between the wet weather and a major protest against the TransPacific Partnership in Addison, Texas on Saturday, it was nice to see a handful of Austin’s core activists meet at the action. We were joined by John Jack Anderson, the Austin Chronicle photographer assigned to the occupation. As we gathered, we talked about our desire to do frequent, smaller actions until our numbers hopefully grow again.

Occupiers with #WeCantWait signs at Plaza Saltillo, Austin, TX

Two occupiers hold #WeCantWait signs at Austin's Plaza Saltillo station. Photo by Kit O'Connell.

We began the action by holding signs at a city train station near the Obama For America headquarters on Austin’s east side, while handing out fliers asking people to contact their legislators in support of ENDA and the executive nondiscrimination order. Almost everyone seemed to be receptive to the message that now that Obama has come out in support of same sex marriage, it’s time to back that support up with action. One guy just frowned and shook his head, wearing that the deep, disapproving frown such people always seem to have; remarkably, a single commuter gave me the middle finger as he passed without saying a word.

Back in the beginning of #OATX, we used to march on the sidewalk. Then when one of our arrestees was getting out of jail he led a rousing speech to say “From now on, we don’t use the sidewalks.” Corey, our main livestreamer, likes to joke that he took this to heart so much that he walks in the street all the time. Corey was with us yesterday, and we took the street in a march on the way to and from the Obama HQ, chanting “We Can’t Wait! Take the Streets!” It was as much about our eagerness for action as the day’s particular cause. Even Jack from the Chronicle followed us off the sidewalk.

The atmosphere was more welcoming. Megan Klein, the Central Texas Regional Director for Obama For America, apologized that we hadn’t reached her on our last visit and listened attentively to our concerns. She asked me to send her more information on Frank Pallone’s Letter to the President, and I promised to forward her the letter we tried to deliver at our first action. In turn, she said she’d pass our information on to her boss, Obama For America Texas director Hector Nieto. You can see our complete interaction in the video above.

The sun seemed to shine just for us and our action yesterday. Based on the reception I received and what I’ve heard since, I think all the direct action and pressure from citizens & donors is having an effect on Obama & his campaign. I hope he will do the right thing in the near future. The OccuQueers plan to keep the pressure up until he does, and until our Congress passes the Executive Nondiscrimination Act, too.

Update: This action was planned in solidarity with the protest in DC, which included two members of Get Equal TX that work closely with the OccuQueers.

Kit O’Connell travels tomorrow with Occupy Austin to the TransPacific Partnership protest in Addison, Texas. Follow Kit’s Twitter for live updates. Thanks to Lainie Duro of Occupy Austin Welcome Wagon for shooting the video.