Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rally Against Prop 8, New York City

These are just a few shots I took today at the Rally protesting Proposition 8 in California. In case you didn't know, rallies were scheduled in major cities all across the country, and were synchronized to happen at the same time. I think special props should go to the folks in Anchorage, Alaska, because their rally was scheduled to start at 9:30am. Yes, the Hawaiians had to get up at 8:30am, it's true, but they're waking up in paradise, so I don't feel quite as sorry for them. I'm assuming it was freeze-your-ass-off cold in Alaska AND early on a Saturday. So, special props.
New York City's gathering was by City Hall. Haven't a clue how big it was, I'll find out what the estimates were later tonight, no doubt. If my experience with past rallies and marches are any indication, the organizers will quote one number, the police department will quote a tenth of that. I am sure the truth usually lies in between, but I have been at events where I KNEW the official number was WAY off, and I had to wonder, what do they think that's going to accomplish? Misrepresenting a protest as significantly smaller than it was, why would people in authority want to do that? I suppose it's a way of downplaying our power and effect. Maybe they just don't want to scare folks reading the morning paper. Don't get it.
The thing about being in it, and not on stage, all I could see was the crowd of people closest to me. Either I was taking photographs in the middle of it, or at one edge or another (whenever the claustrophobia demon in my head started to get a bit shrill). I was never in a position to be able to see the crowd as a whole. By the way I don't know any of the people photographed here. I think I saw one person I know, I definitely saw an actress I did a workshop with, and I saw an actor who plays one of the recurring judges on Law & Order. You know the one, the handsome man of color with the rich deep voice. Yeah, him. I see him on the subway all the time. Sorry, don't know his name, or the name of his character. But that was as close as I got to seeing familiar faces. New York is awfully big, in case you didn't know.
I love the accidental juxtaposition of these posters and street signs.
A defining aspect of this rally for me was the many inventive ways people used the number 8 to replace 'ate'. There were the classics like H8 and Str8, but then there was also Invalid8, Termin8 ("I'll be back"), oh anytime one had a Latinate (sorry, Latin8) verb, chances are it got the vanity license plate (pl8) treatment. Two of my favorites were Str8s H8 Prop8, and Y.U. Got 2 H8? I think that last one should be a Prince song.
Perhaps my two favorite non 8 signs were Help! There's a Mormon in my Bedroom! and We can't possibly screw up marriage more than you have! My photo of those two signs didn't turn out, sadly. I got the impression the two nice ladies holding them were... together.
Early on I had little else to do besides admire the signs because the P.A system sounded like it had been borrowed from the MTA. One could tell someone was talking, but back where we were nothing was coming through. Periodically the folks closest to the stage would cheer and we'd join in, just on good faith. I'm pretty sure I didn't volunteer to be an Amway distributer, join an armed revolt or anything, but it was a bit surreal at times. Eventually something got fixed, and the speakers scattered throughout the crowd began transmitting. At that point I got to hear State Congressman Anthony Weiner (yes, I wrote Weiner), Speaker Christine Quinn (openly lesbian, for those outside the NYC area), and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. They were all pretty good, but funnily enough it was some MTV reporter -I don't know her name, but I believe she came out first on America's Next Top Model - who most impressed me. Okay, not knowing her from Adam's off-ox (and let's be honest, learning she was an MTV reporter and reality show veteran) kept my expectations nice and low... but she made some good points. One in particular caught me. She asked all of us who we had invited to come down to the rally with us. Had we only invited our LGBT friends? Who had we specifically NOT invited? I didn't call a soul. Not one. That may have partly been due to me wanting to reserve the option to leave five minutes after I showed up, if it was going to be maddening, but even so. Anyway, her general point -that we shouldn't assume we know how people feel about the issue, and we should work to keep the conversation going- was a good one. Others said it after her, maybe someone said it before her, when I couldn't hear, but from my experience, she was the one who reminded us to keep talking to everyone about this issue. The speeches were winding down when I left, around 4pm or so. Tomorrow I'll be able to read in the NY Times what the official line is on the whole event. I will make a point of saying that all the officers I saw and dealt with were cordial and helpful. As the event kept growing, they kept expanding the barricades, eventually closing Park Avenue down to one lane. Oh, I almost forgot all the tour buses that drove by. It was funny being a tourist attraction; we got quite a variety of reactions, though I didn't notice any openly hostile ones. One guy passionately blew kisses to us all. More than a few folks gave us a thumbs up. But mostly people just took photos. I made sure to photograph them photographing us, just for the hell of it. None of those photos are remotely interesting, of course, but I'd like to think I kept at least a few folks from thinking they were visiting the Homo Zoo.
Despite the dire predictions, by the way, the weather was gorgeous. Upper sixties, not a drop of the torrential downpour we'd been prepared for. I also couldn't help noticing the hordes of beautiful people in attendance. As many of you know, I often feel like I'm surrounded by Stepford People in the city, because most of the time I'm seeing crowds only on the subway. I suspect I look just as distant and zombified in that context. Well, while there was definitely an undercurrent of anger at this event, I'd say the over-riding energy was one of optimism. Consequently, people were pretty darned nice to look at.


Greg said...

Nice photos, my friend!! I'm glad it was such a beautiful day there...we had the temps, but took the hit on the rain here, perhaps to spare you all.

I was pretty disappointed not to find anything scheduled closer to here than Boston, so at least reading your account makes me feel not quite so far removed from it all.

Java said...

I'm so glad you went. But you didn't call to invite me! Why not? I especially like the sign you mention, "We can't possibly screw up marriage more than you have!"

Thanks for your report. It's as close as I've been to a Prop8 protest so far.

Butch said...

I liked the signs you mentioned. From the pictures you took, it looked like it was a fairly large crowd. ( yea )

Steve and I went to the one in Olympia. Good speakers and a nice little crowd for the size of Olympia. Very diverse crowd, all ages. Our sign couldn't compete to the ones you mentioned. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring a camera,

tornwordo said...

I wish I could have been there. Oh and we got the torrential rain up here all day.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

It is sad that you have to ask straight people if you can get married, I guess since a lot of them have been through it two or three times, they feel they know better.