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Manning Solidarity at Austin’s Queerbomb

3:51 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Free Chelsea Manning float rolling in a sea of queers at Queerbomb

The OccuQueers and CODEPINK represented Chelsea Manning at Austin’s Queerbomb.

This post has been updated to accurately reflect Chelsea Manning’s gender identity.

After the well-publicized cowardice of San Francisco’s Pride in the face of pressure to drop support for Chelsea Manning and with her trial beginning this week, several Austin queers and allies wanted to act in support.

Austin’s “official” Pride event (with heavy corporate sponsorship and organized by the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce) takes place in September. For the fourth time, independent activists honored Pride Month with Queerbomb, a rally and street march last Saturday. Thanks to the Occupy Austin OccuQueers and CODE PINK Austin, Manning was well-represented.

A Queerbomb volunteer provided us with a wheeled platform and helped the first stage of float-making, which was the creation of a frame made from chicken-wire and egg-carton material in the shape of an oversized human torso and head. On Saturday, more of the OccuQueers gathered in my back yard to cover the frame in paper maché and then paint it. We were assisted by one of Occupy Austin’s talented artists, the same woman who helped us create and deploy the Fuck Hyatt banner for Pride 2012.

Joined by the Austin Audio Co-Op and their famous “Party Wagon” (#OATX’s mobile sound system), we arrived just in time for the parade, which was forced to leave early. As we took the Austin streets under police escort, many cheered for the Manning float. We were soon joined by representatives of CODE PINK Austin and the Manning Support Network. Many queers and spectators asked for more information, and we offered fliers and answers in return. Along one part of the route, a few spectators joined our “Free Manning” chants.

Since almost every time I’ve posted about Manning to Facebook I’ve attracted trolls (including repeated disruptive attempts by a known past or present Obama For America employee), it was disappointing but not surprising that our real life efforts attracted one too. As we rolled down Sixth Street, Austin’s night club district, a lithe blond woman aggressively approached a marcher who carried a large Manning banner. The situation became tense as she shouted “Manning should rot in hell!” but the pressure of a fast-moving parade and the intervention of many other supporters kept things from escalating further.

Overall the action was a success, bringing increased awareness of Manning’s case. At the end of the night when I parked the Manning float and took a rest on a bench at a nearby coffee shop, it was fun to watch people stop to pose with him for photos as they left Queerbomb.

Trouble Ahead for Queerbomb?

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Tent City Rising: Occupy Austin Attempts New Encampments (#OATX Birthday, UPDATED)

2:37 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Austin Police Repeatedly Evict End Homelessness Campers and Arrest 3

On Saturday, October 6, a week of events and direct action celebrating Occupy Austin’s 1st birthday culminated on its official anniversary with an attempt to reoccupy space; the goal was to create a new transitional encampment for those without homes in a city which has criminalized their existence.

The Popular Assembly at Austin City Hall

The Popular Assembly at Austin City Hall (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

The day began with a March Against Hate to protest a hate crime on Pride weekend (previously mentioned on myFDL). Occupy Austin, in addition to joining the march, lent our portable sound system to the community for use at the Texas State Capitol, then danced along the sidewalks on the way back to Austin City Hall for our Popular Assembly. In between blowing on party horns and whistles, members of the community got on the microphone to talk about the accomplishments of our movement, our favorite memories, and our hopes for next year.

From City Hall, Occupiers left by car, bus and bike for a rendezvous point at Highland Mall, a failing mall which was recently bought out by Austin Community College (though classes have not yet begun there). The bicycle contingent was the last to arrive, and by the time they did the Austin Police department and mall security had amassed — at least a dozen police cars, not to mention the helicopter circling overhead. It was time for Tent City Rising.

Occupy Austin’s Ending Homelessness Working Group called for the action with the goal of creating new temporary housing for those without homes. The encampment, if allowed to exist, would follow strict behavior guidelines for all those present. It would provide critical meals and shelter for a city which has thousands of homeless (about 4,000) and only hundreds of beds in dangerous, overcrowded shelters. Austin has also made it illegal to camp on public property, against city code to erect tents on private property within city limits, and even illegal to sit or lay down on the sidewalk. The timing of the action was perfect to shed light on the problem, because the Austin Police Department has started an initiative to ‘clean up downtown‘ for the Austin City Limits Festival and the upcoming Formula 1 Race in November. Arrests of the homeless have increased as much as 200% or more by some reports.

Police wrestle a man holding a backpack to the ground in front of a tent.

Jeremy Cruts is arrested for camping, September 6 2012 (Photo: John Jack Anderson, used with permission).

Moments after the cyclists arrived at the ACC property, police and security cleared the parking lot. In the process they made two arrests — including the Peaceful Streets Project‘s Joshua “Comrade” Pineda, who they grabbed off the sidewalk, later claiming he’d stepped a single foot back onto the “private property.” Regrouping, the occupiers marched to an abandoned Home Depot, shadowed by the helicopter and an unmarked law enforcement agent in a white SUV.

On the night in February when police evicted the 5-month long occupation from Austin City Hall, the city allowed people without anywhere else to go the opportunity to sleep for a single night at this disused big box construction store. The site was chosen symbolically to make a stand. If the city was willing to house people there for one night, why not many nights when so many sleep in their cars or try to find a hiding place from the police to get a few hours rest?

The gate to the Home Depot was opened, and three Occupiers parked their cars inside. Soon after, many police officers arrived and told them to move their vehicles. As soon as they reentered the property to do so, police boxed them in and placed all three in handcuffs. One member of the group was due to visit a sick relative the next morning and became extremely distraught. Even the police seemed affected; one officer appeared near tears and helped occupiers recover a bicycle belonging to one of those arrested.

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Watercooler: Global

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

An article on right-wing criticism of LGBTQ Pride events in Sweden, Tolerance with conditions is bigotry in disguise on Digital McGyver caught my attention:

This leads to something that I can only describe as a rant about how “these things” stigmatize LGBT people and makes “politics of private issues”. It boils down to a variation of “why do gays have to flaunt their sexuality in public” and paints the organization for Stockholm Pride as a “cultural leftist organization”. Then it goes on stating that it’s “the modern society’s lack of norms and fix points that has created mental ill health and social problems”.

What Skyttedal actually says here is that she can accept LGBT persons who aren’t “deviant with radical opinions”. I have to assume that “radical opinions” means having the same opinions as her.

It’s the usual bigotry disguised as moral panic and demands that gay people fall in line and act just like everyone else. That’s why this article caught my attention — not because the problems described are unique but because they are so familiar. The article could have easily been written about a conservative from the United States.

Recently, Occupy Austin had an activist visit from Barcelona, who was part of the revolutionary movements in Spain. The problems they face, and the issues they target were strikingly similar to our own, and his list of their top issues they’d compiled was similar to ours except perhaps in different order. Austerity, access to education, the corruption of the economy by the big banks …

Not only has the modern age of social media and citizen journalism connected movements worldwide, it also reflects the universality of our problems. Local issues matter, but they frequently boil down to the same root causes — and doesn’t it all come back to money and unequal distribution of wealth?

This is the latest myFDL open thread. What’s on your mind?

Watercooler: Closeted 1%

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

It’s nice to see the Wall Street Journaltouching on the growing number of openly gay CEOs especially when they are up front about the stakes of being open in the workplace:

Some top executives are tiptoeing out of the closet about their sexuality. Many describe their coming-out experiences as unexpectedly painless—and most say they were met with overwhelming support.

Being gay in the corporate world is still far from being a “nonissue,” said Deena Fidas, deputy director of corporate programs at Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil-rights group in the U.S. Companies can still legally fire a worker for being gay in 29 states, for one, and many subtle biases remain in the workplace, according to the group.

Queer rights are of course really class rights. The top 1% of CEOs could undoubtedly survive being fired for queerness. Human Rights Campaign has sold out queer rights many times, acts like workplace rights themselves are a non-issue compared to marriage and certaily doesn’t deserve to be called a transgender civil-rights group.

What good is marriage if (some) worker can be fired for talking about your partner? That’s what’s on my mind tonight.

What’s on yours? This is the latest MyFDL open thread.

Watercooler: Vigil

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

As of this writing, I’m preparing to go to the Austin vigil for the lesbian couple who was shot in Portland, Texas. I’ve written about this before, and by the time you read this it’ll be mostly over, but these watercoolers are basically a dump of whatever is in my brain at the time I write them and it’s hard to think about much else (even though I’ll be getting drinks after with a good queer friend).

There’s no evidence yet to suggest this was a hate crime, but the speed with which the queer community has come together over this shooting shows how vulnerable we feel. Whatever eventually comes out about motive, we identify with these two young women, and see something of ourselves and the risks we face living out of the closet. And though the situation is tragic, this is one of those times when an activist can do direct, concrete good — by creating an outpouring of loving energy and offerings to families in need during the hardest of times.

And sadly, there’s violence every day that all too often hurts those of us who already have so little. I am an optimist and dream of a world where this kind of tragedy does not happen every day.

That’s what’s on my mind. I hope you have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend. I’ll be your editor this weekend, since I’m taking a couple days off next week, so I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Update: Check out my my Twitter feed for photos from tonight’s vigil.

In the meantime, what’s on your mind? This is tonight’s open thread.

https://www.facebook.com/events/244312185686387/

Gay Crumbs From the Table of the Masters (by Daniel Edward Massoglia)

9:30 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

By Daniel Edward Massoglia (@jujueyeball). Originally published on the Occupied Chicago Tribune. For more MyFDL coverage of Occupied Pride events, see Why Occupy Pride and the watercooler posts Pride and Pride Revisited.

Protest Banner: Take Back Pride Queers Against Racism And Corporate Greed

OccuPride Banner in Chicago (Photo: Philip DeVon, used with permission)

If you had, at the time, asked a participant in the Stonewall Riots—whose occurrence annual LGBTQ Pride parades commemorate—whether they envisioned a future where their cause was vocally supported by JP Morgan, Doritos, and the President of the United States, chances are your answer would have been a swift and sure “No.” But, in 21st century America, this is the case, and, sadly, Pride has let itself be changed by this, with little thought given to the consequences and ramifications.

Let this be said: Chicago Pride was awesome. Hundreds of thousands (850,000 by the city of Chicago’s estimation) joined together in Chicago’s Lakeview and Wrigleyville neighborhoods in an exuberant celebration of humanity. People of all races, ages, sexual orientations and gender identities celebrated the wonder of life in all its forms. Gay cowboys line-danced. Dykes occupied their bikes. Even the handful of bigots ended up looking silly, flanked on either side by a sign directed at the preacher (“Secretly Gay”) and an honest to goodness “Gay Jesus” impersonator, fabulous from beard to sandals. It really was beautiful. In one interfaith segment, Mormons, Catholics, Buddhists, and other groups marched, carrying signs saying, “Gays are God’s People.” Even with all the upbeat, sun-driven joy, however, there were a number of troubling elements to the parade.

Underwritten by the 1%

Pride initially represented the cry, “We exist!” shouted from an ignored and stigmatized community to the larger population of the country. It was a celebration of the margins. While this is still the case in some ways, the LGBTQ community has now found itself underwritten by the most oppressive elements of American society—banks, politicians, and corporations, the ultimate ostracizers—and it has largely accepted this. It is a shift almost as dizzying in scope as the shift in mainstream consciousness towards LGBTQ rights. Decades ago, from the margins came a movement, one which has now, years later, unfortunately and almost unblinkingly accepted the subsidy of organizations and individuals that actively enable the perpetual, repressive “othering” of the powerless.

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Watercooler: Global Protest

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Been thinking about the state of things, like I often do, and inspired as usual by conversations with my friends.

Look at the example set recently by other countries, like Canada or Mexico, with their vibrant street protests. It’s painful to compare it to the United States sometimes. When our northern neighbors enact new laws against free speech and protest, the people take to the streets nationwide. Here, there hardly seems to be a reaction, or the reaction is one of fear.

At my optimistic moments though, I imagine that a wave of globally connected, technologically-enhanced protest reached our shores in fall of last year, and while it’s at low ebb here in the United States now, its washing over other places. We’re ready here — the channels of connection, communication, and key networks of radical activists — waiting for the return of the wave when the time comes. Will it be a tidal wave next time?

That’s what’s on my mind today. I’m off to the Austin Stonewall protest tonight, though it’ll be over by the time you read these words. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And this is today’s open thread — what’s on your mind? Any more thoughts on today’s healthcare decision (or anything else)?

Watercooler: Pride Revisited (UPDATED)

5:48 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

In a previous watercooler I wrote about LGBTQ pride events and how they’ve become increasingly driven by the “pink dollar” of corporate sponsorship, and divorced from the real origin of the event — the anger of queer people at a long history of oppression based on orientation, gender identity, and race.

Sadly, the anniversary of Stonewall comes close on the heels of a tragic reminder of the struggle still ahead: the shooting of a young lesbian couple in Portland, Texas. Though there are apparently no suspects and the motive is therefore still unknown, police are quick to dismiss the potential hate crime angle:

“A motive in this case has not been established,” Portland, Texas, Police Chief Randy Wright said in a statement late Tuesday. “However, there is no current evidence to indicate the attacks were motivated by that relationship.”

Regardless of the particulars of the case as they develop, is this the world we want to live in — where some of our youngest and most vulnerable minorities are preyed on while mainstream Pride celebrates the small donations of a few big corporations? Though not as serious as the Texas case, there is violence everywhere. Shortly after the Seattle Police Department created their own It Gets Better video, an officer pepper-sprayed a peaceful LGBTQ street party then charged the victim with assault.

We have to keep fighting. When we’re bashed, we must bash back.

On Thursday, the Occupy Austin OccuQueers will Occupy the Austin Stonewall Rally. Then on Friday, Austin will host a candlelit vigil for the victims of the Portland shooting in solidarity with the vigil occurring in Portland, Texas.

See also: Why Occupy Pride

Update: Mary Christine Chapa, the surviving half of the couple, is making an extraordinary recovery but lacks health insurance. GetEqual TX reports that solidarity vigils are planned for 18 cities in North America.

This is tonight’s open thread. What’s on your mind?

Watercooler: Pride

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Pride celebrations are coming up, or have already occurred, in most major cities — though not in Austin.

Pride traditionally takes place near the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, or at least during the same month. Austin Pride celebration takes place in September in deference to the heat of June. Instead, June in Austin features Queerbomb, a street celebration of LGBTQ rights that follows the original spirit of Pride.

What began as a riot by fed up queer people (largely drag kings) at a mafia-owned watering hole has had its rough edges taken off over the years. Instead of angry activists, we have family-friendly rainbow runs and drink specials at the local bars. What was once about gay rights has instead become about the pink dollar; the mafia has been replaced by corporate sponsors like Budweiser. I’ve never seen so many drunken fist fights in one night as when I attended Pride Weekend in Dallas last year.

Some activists and Occupy-related groups are queerbombing their local pride events. GLITUR, off-shoot of Occupy Seattle, are organizing Drag Out Capitalism:

“Are you sick of the corporate spectacle that Gay Pride has become in Seattle? Do you reject the way local bars jack up their prices to try to make a profit off what is supposed to be a weekend of celebration and unity? Well so are we!!!,” the event announcement reads.

A guerilla street party with high police presence is also expected.

Organizers from Occupy Wall Street NYC’s Occupride celebrations caught the attention of high-profile gay blogger Joe My God when an organizer quit. This looks like a bit of internal Occudrama which unfortunately attracted the attention of the the blogosphere. What saddens me is the speculation in the comments that suggests occupiers intend to ruin Pride. Meanwhile, queer people can still be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity; to me, the real threat are those corporate sponsors and beer companies who turn Stonewall into another excuse to get drunk.

In any case, OWS organizers have reorganized and created a new Facebook event for their action. My group, the Occupy Austin OccuQueers will have our first discussion of pride plans at our next meeting.

That’s what’s on my mind tonight.

What about you? This is today’s open thread.

Update: Bay Area OccuPride to target Oakland’s Jean Quan during SF Pride Parade.