(Be aware that virtually all media reports about this event have been somewhat skewed, especially in terms of attendance. Franklin’s event came nowhere near the amount of people at MEET IN THE MIDDLE, although several media outlets are representing it that way. We estimated the turnout for Franklin’s camp at around 300-400, far from estimates of "thousands" which, due to the acceptance of anything published on the internet, were widely accepted, rather than actual reporting.)
Although I have a great deal of respect for the local media, who have remained steadfast in their dedication to covering the LGBT movement in the Central Valley for equal rights, their coverage Sunday night of the chaos that ensued during our protest of the Jim Franklin rally at Fresno City Hall earlier in the evening was nothing short of a whitewash. While the event was inundated with dozens of media cameras, everything reported on the local news Sunday night reveals nothing close to what actually transpired there.
Each channel covered our protest, but just barely, and concentrated on statements made from the Cornerstone camp. Let’s be clear here, the story, the ONLY story in this battle, is that a minority group of California citizens had their equal civil rights stripped away from them simply because a majority of Californians and a shameful Supreme Court allowed it to happen. The story here is the lack of equality of millions of Americans in the year 2009. Simply put, the story here was the PROTEST.
There were two groups present to protest. One was organized through Gay Central Valley and was intended to be a confronational, loud disruption and counter to the Cornerstone event. The other protest was organized with Courage Campaign support as well as local activist Robin McGehee. This group chose to be a peaceful, loving and faith based protest, which remained on the other side of the street from the Franklin event, locking hands in a circle while singing and praying.
(It should be noted that members of this faith group went so far as to verbally disassociate themselves from members of our group during our shout outs across the street, stating to the Franklin crowd, "They don’t speak for us." I spoke to Robin after the event and we each support the other’s right to speak out in different ways. Robin feels that our methods of confrontation can ultimately be used against the movement by the opposition, and I believe that using faith or religion in any manner in the debate simply reinforces the notion that this is about religion, instead of civil rights, and that can be used against our movement by the opposition.)
(What’s especially disturbing is the reaction of some of the LGBT Organizations in regards to tonight’s event. Some are calling it "pointless" and "devisive", since it doesn’t gel with their plan of quiet opposition. Most of those making negative comments online were personally nowhere near the event, and relied on word of mouth or shoddy internet and local news reports for the "truth" of the event. Highlighting this are groups who believe that only a pre-plotted, prescribed and worst of all, non confrontational "activism" are the way forward. Let’s continue to tell each other that it’s better to weave ourselves into the web of mythology that is Christianity, than it is to deal with the issue of equal civil rights as what it is, an issue of CIVIL RIGHTS. Mythology, which includes Christianity, has NOTHING to do with the conversation.)
As protestors, we were informed by the Police Dept prior to any action, what we could and couldn’t do, and we stuck to that. We moved to the sidewalk facing the Franklin event and loudly and aggresively shouted out our protests at the stripping of our civil rights.
There was a large contingent of Franklin security at the event (all the guys in the white shirts and black ties) and they almost immediately began taking up with the instant force of hatred and violence which we were confronted by. We were pushed, head butted, had our signs torn in half and one very brave man with a bullhorn, calling them bigots (very appropriately) can be seen on a local news report being pushed by a security person to the concrete. I actually spoke to this man as I was leaving and we will do our best to investigate pressing charges. It’s also come to our attention that a van belonging to someone who’d come from Southern California to protest, was keyed with a pro-Prop 8 slogan after the rally. We would like to urge whoever owns the van to contact us so that we can asisst them in pressing charges.
The level of violent hatred toward us from the Franklin group was astounding, even to a cynic like myself. We were called all kinds of nasty names, told that we’re AIDS SPREADERS, and sexual deviants. (It’s not about hatred, right?) After about an hour of confrontation, and several very close calls where we were basically trapped, surrounded by a large group of aggressive "christians" and "christian" security, as well as a whole bunch of literal crazies, who waved bibles at us, chanted in tongues and passed their open hands over us as if to "heal" us, we returned to our side of the street.
As the Franklin rally ended and their members dispersed, each side held their ground with a large number of people. As we each shouted across the street to each other, two of the "christian bikers" (I don’t know who they were, but there was an entire parade of christian bikers who pulled up at the beginning. I thought they were the Dykes On Bikes at first, but these guys were a lot more butch…) pulled over and parked their bikes right in front of our contingent and continuously revved their engines loudly so that our voices could not be heard.