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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Chicagoans protest anti-gay pogram in Iraq

Everything from Iran to gay leadership was mentioned during a Gay Liberation Network (GLN) rally that drew approximately 15 individuals to the corner just outside of Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, on a blustery Sunday afternoon.

The rally—which commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) —had been scheduled to take place near President Barack Obama's Hyde Park home, but had to be moved. IDAHO protests also took place in San Francisco and New York City.

GLN's Bob Schwartz became the primary spokesperson for the organization. (Andy Thayer—who usually leads the group's rallies—was in Moscow, Russia, where he was arrested during a gay-rights rally. He was released shortly thereafter.) And Schwartz had no shortage of opinions.

While talking to the press, Schwartz commented that the focus of the rally shifted from the Polish consulate to reports of torture of gay Iraqis. “Their anuses have been glued shut, and then diarrhea has been induced,” he said.

Speaking about the physical move of the rally, Schwartz said, “We think that [being moved] from [near] Obama's residence is a denial of rights.” He said that a state law prohibits protests outside a public official's private residence, but said that he's “seen other groups by the security barrier. But when we wanted to go out there—and we had secured a permit— [we heard] late Friday afternoon that we couldn't do it.”

About Iraq, Schwartz said, “Since [that country] is a U.S.-occupied territory—a puppet regime—they should be directed by Obama to stop the killing of gay men over there. Everyone knows that the U.S. has a lot of influence over what happens in Iraq.”

During the rally, Schwartz also mentioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wondering why she did not mention anything about the reported abuse of gays when she visited Iraq.

Continuing about Obama, Schwartz told the media, “To our knowledge, this is the first time a local gay organization has held a demonstration that's called Obama out on anything. The national gay leadership before the election made no demands on Obama; they just said, in effect, ‘Whew! He's not George Bush or [Sen. John] McCain.' They put no demands on Obama—and the Black leadership didn't either, for that matter—and, now, we're reaping the harvest. I like to quote Frederick Douglass, who said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.' Obama has made promises about things, like ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and now he's back-pedaling.”

Going back to gay leadership, Schwartz then named a couple groups: “The Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force backed a man who didn't back equal civil rights for gay people. I can't imagine any other group doing that.”



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