Home Feature Queer Protest Protested — By Queers

Queer Protest Protested — By Queers


IMG_0595An LGBT rights march on Sunday was protested by Bash Back! Twin Cities, an anarchist-leaning queer group who are probably best-known, locally, for picketing a Human Rights Campaign fundraising gala in Minneapolis two months ago. But despite a screaming match between march organizers (using megaphones) and the eight BB! protesters, not everyone in the larger protest actually realized they were being counter-demonstrated.

IMG_0596 The spat is over the same issues behind the HRC picket — BB! holds that pro-marriage activism like the march, organized by Join the Impact – Twin Cities, actually hurts the community because it overlooks the importance of issues including healthcare reform, police abuse, discrimination, and employment discrimination in the lives of poor LGBTQ folks. Join The Impact – Twin Cities was started around this time last year in response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, and helped organize Minnesotans to attend the National Equality March last month, in Washington D.C. Recently, the group has whithered somewhat and Dan DiMaggio, one of the lead organizers of Sunday’s rally, said he hoped it could provide energy to re-launch the organization.

When two protests of around 60 people, combined, try to shout each other down, it feels like you’re witnessing a boxing match between two blades of grass and their roots – together, both groups barely filled a quarter of the plaza between Minneapolis’ City Hall and the Hennepin County building in downtown Minneapolis. Still, this fissure over strategies for getting to equality runs straight through the LGBTQ community nation-wide — the night before the National Equality March, a group affiliated with Bash Back! defaced the Human Rights Campaign’s building with pink paint and glitter, and a Memphis, TN chapter of BB! claimed responsibility for defacing a billboard featuring a gay former marine and the caption “I’m gay and I defended your freedom.”

As BB! followed the JTI-TC march from a short rally in downtown Minneapolis, down Washington Avenue to Bedlam Theatre in the West Bank, chant and counter-chant echoed off the high-rises. “What do we want? Equal Rights!” was met with “No Assimilation!”; “Don’t get married, for-ni-cate!” answered “We de-mand equa-li-ty!”

Before the march left Government Center, some JTI organizers and some BB! members talked – separately – about the possibility of sharing megaphones and combining marches, but that idea seemed to die quickly. As the march began, DiMaggio of JTI flatly refused to let BB! share the stage.

IMG_0591“It’s hard to have a dialogue with these people,” DiMaggio said. To illustrate his point, he quietly tried to get the attention of a BB! member walking by. When they didn’t respond to his half-hearted call, he turned to me and said “see? That’s what dialogue with them is like!”

In the end, JTI organizers’ megaphones were more than a match for eight voices — as I walked through the small crowd of JTI marchers, many in the middle had no clue there was a counter-protest going on.

For some who were aware of the BB! members following the march, the company was alternately annoying and upsetting.

IMG_0598“I didn’t appreciate them at all,” JTI marcher Jessica Davis told me at Bedlam Theatre after the march had ended. “They should have had their own march if they don’t agree” with the march’s emphasis on marriage equality.

“It feels like it hinders our efforts,” Justin Grey Day, a marcher with the JTI-TC group, said in reference to the BB! group’s attempts to drown out the larger march’s chants.

IMG_0588Despite the low turnout, DiMaggio was optimistic that JTI would grow, and spoke of plans to “re-launch” the group in December by inviting the Twin Cities’ LGBT community to help shape the agenda and issues it would pursue.

“We’re going to do our reseach,” DiMaggio said, “And we’ll come back in December with some concrete proposals.”


  1. Rather than protesting the gay marriage march, why doesn’t Bash Back just start it’s own march to address all those issues?

  2. It’s so sad that some groups think it’s easier to tear each other down and protest each other rather than work together against a common enemy.

  3. BB! has had its own marches.

    Working together against a common enemy? Marriage and the state are the enemy. Queers should be working to protect their own, not working to be accepted into a system that is oppressive JUST BECAUSE STRAIGHT PEOPLE DO IT.

  4. I’ve never heard of BB!, but I’m certainly glad they exist. It’s about time some gays who actually read books instead of watching cable news address the issues most pertinent to right now. If you want gay marriage, fine, but you should do your research on it, and marriage in general, before you follow the flock. The HRC has brainwashed the LGBTQ masses into this whole marriage thing, not because they seek equality for all, but because they are trying to overcome their own shame. These leaders are out-of-touch millionaires seeking subconscious acceptance from straights, which in turn, stigmatizes those who don’t want a heterosexual lifestyle.

    But ultimately, neither group is doing anything that is universally empowering because with force always comes counter-force… which is why the world is the way it is today. Full of arguments over stupid shit that isn’t real. We’re all identified with social constructs as if they are part of life… time to wake up folks. You want equal rights? Then maybe you should look at marriage as an exclusion, not an inclusion. Why? Because marriage excludes those who don’t want it. Shouldn’t EVERYONE be entitled to the benefits that come with marriage, regardless of their relationship status? That’s true equality.

  5. I think it’s totally fascinating that people would worry about forming or relaunching something like Join The Impact, when there’s been so little impetus or interest in the community about fighting for marriage rights in California. DiMaggio and a lot of JTI folks are from Socialist Alternative, and SA is not the only socialist org that has jumped on the gay marriage bandwagon– the International Socialist Organization, hq’d in Chicago, has also jumped on the marriage wagon hard.

    Groups like BB! and other radical queer orgs in MN and around the world who are not making marriage a priority are focusing on more immediate needs such as food, housing, safety, health care, access to education– things that impact all queers, not just assimilationist gays in monog relationships who want to be just like straight folks. Groups like BB! have just as much right to demonstrate for the things they want, and there are not enough chances to start discussion with other lgbt folks– showing up to events is a way to get the message out.

  6. CORRECTION – my first sentence should say I think it’s totally fascinating that people would worry about forming or relaunching something like Join The Impact, when there’s been so little impetus or interest in the community about fighting for marriage rights in MINNESOTA.

  7. It’s a basic human right to have your family recognized by your government and culture to the extent that your familial relationships are afforded appropriate respect to all human families. The marriage contract has it’s limitations in not being the appropriate contract for all families and so I would argue we also need not only equal access for same sex couples to that contract but also more contractual options– a smorgasboard of contracts, to more appropriately fit more kinds of families and give them adequate protections.

    In 2006, the “Yogakarta Principles of the Application of International Human Rights Law to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” passed at the largest annual gathering of international human rights legal scholars. Among the essential basic human rights noted based on the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to have your family recogniaed as such.

    Why anyone wants to protest people who take human rights seriously I don’t know.

    There has been ALOT of impetus behind teh push for same sex marriage in MN. In fact, there are nearly 10,000 people involved at some level with Marriage Equality Minnesota alone and that’s an all volunteer group like Join the Impact. Others are working through Project 515 working on a more incremental approach and still others are working on it through the Family Equality Council headquartered in St. Paul which brings us the Rainbow Families conference each year at Anwantin school in Mpls. And NOW Outfront is working on marriage equality and has been instrumental in bringing Take Action Minnesota, an alliance of progressive social justice, civil rights, unions, environmental and other groups on board as Take Action has included marriage equality in their gubernatorial endorsement campaign reNew MN for this next election cycle.

    Even the DFL has added marriage equality to it’s platform joining the Green Party of MN meaning half of MN’s legally designated “major and minor” parties have marriage equality in their platforms.

    All 10 Democratic Farmer Labor candidates for governor are claiming to support marriage equality and all 10 are seeking Outfront MN’s endorsement this next year while not a single one did 4 years ago and that helps ALL glbtiq issues within Outfront’s purview.

    So FYI. Marriage Equality is a major issue on which there is alot going on in MN. There were protests at least once a week at MN’s state capital building last year in favor of marriage equality as well as a couple of large rallies.

    AND there is a bill in the MN state legislature which will likely have more than 30 cosponsors in the House when the session starts again in Feb. and there are already 3 different marriage equality bills in the state senate each with the maximum number of Senators signed on.

    Also, Minnesota has generally acted on these matters before states like California and New York. For example, Minneapolis had the first transgender rights ordinance anywhere in North America and the second glb rights ordinance in the U.S. San Francisco didn’t pass it’s glb rights ordinance til 5 years later. New York City just passed a transgender rights ordinance in the 2000’s and New York state has yet to pass a law banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity while Minnesota has had such a law on the books for 16 years and Minneapolis has had such a law on the books for 35 years.

    So, it is not uncommon that CA and NY would be working on other issues.

    P.S. I am also working on GAMC cuts and the Minnesota Health Plan. Working for marriage equality doesn’t preclude anyone from working for the things you also claim to be working for but funny, I didn’t recognize one of you from the halls of the state capital or from any of the street protests when the work on those issues has been done either.

  8. @ David Strand

    Or we could get rid special “recognized status” altogether and give the sort of benefits associated with marriage to EVERYONE, whether they are in a relationship or not.

    But you’re right. You won’t ever see us in the state capitol with the those Auntie Toms who live a privileged life in the suburbs while portions of our community live in the streets. Gays have never accomplished anything significant through legislation.

    All of our rights have come from organizing our people and making our voices heard by any means necessary — not lobbying and telling a sob story to some straight politicians who couldn’t give a flying fuck.

    You seem to be under the impression that our movement started with the Stonewall Referendum.

  9. Hi! David Cummer here. I’ve been part of JTI-TC for a couple of years, and was a peace marshal for the Nov. 2009 march. Going back some years I was also a member of ACT-UP Minnesota, (and was arrested at the Aquatennial Parade about 15 years ago), The NAMES Project, and testified back in the 80s when Minneapolis was considering extending domestic partnership to city employees. (And yes, I did walk to school uphill both ways, up to my knees in cold sourghum sandwiches).

    Now, I really don’t appreciate comments such as “You won’t ever see us in the state capitol with the those Auntie Toms who live a privileged life in the suburbs while portions of our community live in the streets.” or “It’s about time some gays who actually read books instead of watching cable news …”

    I live in downtown Minneapolis in a tiny apartment, and am on disability because of ongoing depression and metal illness. Nor do I watch t.v. at all, do read books, and have also lived through parts of queer history that are covered in some of those books.

    So please, both sides need to drop the ad hominem tactics.

    On the other hand, my feeling about Bash Back’s counter-protesting us is pretty much “come on down and protest away!” I mean, if it’s okay for JTI-TC, OutFront MN, etc. to counter-protest the St. Paul NOM rally earlier this summer, then Bash Back’s got every right to do the same at our events.

    David Cummer
    [email protected]

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