News

NY group uses guerrilla tactics against anti-marriage legislators

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 7, 2010

Civil rights organizers have employed rallies and demonstrations to call attention to injustices for generations, but some LGBT activists in New York who remain enraged by the state Senate's vote against marriage for same-sex couples have begun to resort to guerrilla tactics and other forms of civil disobedience.

The Dec. 2 vote against the marriage bill represented a significant setback in efforts to extend marriage to gays and lesbians in the Empire State. Many Democratic senators had initially said they supported the bill's passage, but eight eventually voted against the measure. And the protests began almost immediately.

Activists confronted state Sen. Carl Kruger [D-Brooklyn] as he left the Senate floor in Albany, accusing him of being closeted and telling him he betrayed his LGBT supporters.

New York City rallies followed. And then a group of activists called Kruger a "bigot" as they marched in front of his Brooklyn home on Dec. 13.

The "I'm mad and I'm not going to take it anymore" mood spread; protesters crashed embattled state Sen. Hiram Monserrate [D-Jackson Heights]'s Dec. 22 holiday party in Queens.

As entertainment ended and a buffet dinner for some 400 party goers was about to get under way, a group of about seven protesters snuck in and, referring to the first anniversary of Monserrate's arrest for allegedly slashing his girlfriend, chanted, "Hiram thinks marriage consists of one man, one woman and a broken bottle."

A Queens judge convicted the former police officer in October of misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend Karla Giraldo while he dragged her through the lobby of his apartment building.

The group also put flyers on parked cars.

"Hiram Monserrate: Help me celebrate my first year anniversary of girlfriend slashing," they read. "I proudly voted to deny civil marriage rights to my gay (LGBT) constituents."

In an e-mail to supporters following the incident, group co-founder Alan Bounville maintained activists turned the gathering into an anniversary party celebrating domestic violence.

A police van followed the protesters for about a quarter mile after they left the party, Bounville reported, but there were no arrests. He said officers were courteous and even wished the group happy holidays before they left, he added.Bounville's group later posted a YouTube video of the protest that has garnered nearly 27,000 views.

The Monserrate party-crashing was the first in a planned series of acts of civil disobedience the group plans, according to Bounville. In a Jan. 4 phone interview with EDGE, he wouldn't divulge details on targets, dates or locations, but the group is now called Queer Rising. Bounville said its mission is "demanding queer rights through direct action."

He declined, however, to disclose how many people have joined his group.

"We don't want to release too much data to the media," Bounville said. "We have a good-sized group starting. We have a very strong group of people showing they were committed to this early on. A lot of people have experience with civil disobedience, which helps."

Bounville said marriage will not be the group's sole focus. He said he and fellow activists intend to target "all of the areas LGBTQ people suffer in equality in this country."

Bounville has experience in fighting for LGBT rights. Before moving from Orlando to New York last summer to attend grad school at New York University, he was involved in what he calls "virtual activism" by participating in a blog aimed at getting domestic partnership benefits for employees of Orlando Health, a large hospital system. Bounville said Queer Rising soon will launch a web site and Facebook page.

"I'd wanted to start a group engaged in direct action," he said. "As I watched that Senate vote against marriage equality come down it just all crystallized." He began working with Andrew Conte, whom he met at one of the Union Square rallies. Together, they co-founded Queer Rising.

The group comprises people from all walks of life, Bounville reported. Some of its members are also affiliated with other activist groups.

The protesters will continue to engage in acts of civil disobedience even if they risk arrest, he added.

"Each action's unique," Bounville said. "We'll do whatever is needed. The actions will be very much in your face, telling people who are oppressing us that we're done. It's time."

Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is pcassels@edgepublications.com.


Comments

  • , 2010-01-08 14:41:44

    Keep it up Queer Rising don’t give up until we win. Equality in this year 2010 Give hell to the traitors until we have our rights.


  • , 2010-01-08 23:38:03

    This is great to see that we are FINALLY shifting the movement into civil disobedience!!! It is WAY past time. More groups need to stand up throughout the nation and do the same!!!


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