The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 6
October 6th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Key West Bear Fest, Key West, FL; AIDS Walk, New Hope, PA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Miami Mayor: “Deviates Are Leaving The City”: 1954. Miami’s ongoing hysteria over discovering the presence of gay people in their midsts (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14,Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15 and Sep 19) appeared to be on the wane, with Mayor Abe Aronovitz telling The Miami News that the city’s highly publicized raids on gay bars and beaches were finally having their effect:
Mayor Claims Deviates Are Leaving City
Miami is the cleanest town in the area so far as homosexuals go, it was claimed by Mayor Abe Aronovitz, who said, “but we are not solving it from a humanitarian standpoint because we are only clearing it up as far as Miami is concerned.”
“There is no solution from a humanitarian standpoint, however, because I have received complaints from both Broward County on the north and Monroe County on the south that the homosexuals are just drifting out of Miami.”
The City Commission later today is expected to pass on second reading an ordinance aimed at controlling homosexuals and also jeopardizing liquor licenses of establishments serving people known to have homosexual tendencies.
It was passed on the first reading two weeks ago.
And that is why there are no homosexuals in Miami anymore.
45 YEARS AGO: Rev. Troy Perry Holds First Metropolitan Community Church Service: 1968. Perry’s life had always been difficult. His bootlegger father died when Perry was twelve. His mother married an alcoholic who reduced the family to poverty and was physically abusive. Troy ran away from home and stayed with relatives, who introduced him to Pentecostalism. In 1959, the nineteen-year-old Perry married a Church of God pastor’s daughter and became the pastor of of a CoG church in Jolliet, Illinois — all this despite knowing that he was gay and was sexually active with other men. He merely told himself that it was a phase and that he wasn’t really gay. After all, it was impossible to be both gay and Christian, his superiors in the church had reassured him. But his cover didn’t last long in Jolliet though, and when his secret came out, he was told by church leaders to leave the church and tell his wife, who decided to stay with him.
The couple moved to California, where they joined the Church of God of Prophecy, another Pentecostal denomination. When he finally decided to tell his superiors in that denomination that he was gay, they acted as CoG had: they kicked him out. This time though, his wife left him, taking their two young sons with her. Perry spent the next several years trying to figure out what he was: was he gay, or was he Christian? In 1967, he tried to kill himself after breaking up with a boyfriend. The following year, he was on a date at a gay bar when Los Angeles police decided to conduct one of their infamous raids. His date, broken and demoralized by the experience, decided that no one cared about gay people, including God. That’s when Perry decided it was time to show that young man, and all gay people, differently.
And so on October 6, 1969, he held his first worship service in the living room of his Huntington Park home. Twelve people attended. Nine were friends of his, who showed up to support him. Three were there in response to an ad that Perry placed in that month’s edition of The Los Angeles Advocate. But from that modest beginning rose the Metropolitan Community Church. When the MCC bought its first piece of property, that property became the first bit of real estate ever owned by a gay organization in the U.S. In 1996, Perry remarked, “If you had told me twenty-eight years ago that the largest organization in the world touching the lives of gays and lesbians would be a church, I would not have believed you.” Over the years, twenty-one MCC churches were targets of arsonists and four MCC clergy were murdered. But in 2000, Perry repeated his vow: “We will never, ever, be chased out of a city; we’ve never, ever left a city where we’ve faced persecution.” The MCC currently has 172 churches in 37 countries.
[Source: Lee Arnold. “Troy Perry (1940- ).” In Vern. L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 393-398.
San Francisco Police Sweep The Castro: 1989. ACT-UP had put on a number of protests and marches before in San Francisco, almst all of them without incident. This one was small: about 150 people showed up at the Federal Building a few blocks from City Hall. After a brief rally, they marched to City Hall, then up Market Street to the Mint Building before ending at Castro Street. Typically during marches like this one, the Police department would assign a handful of officers to help block traffic and ensure the safety of protesters and onlookers. But one marcher, Gerald Koskovich, noticed something was different about this march:
“The march turned non-routine the minute it left the federal plaza. Hordes of San Francisco police officers on foot and on motorcycles emerged as soon as the protesters started marching on the street. They attempted to force the march to stay on the sidewalk,” said Koskovich, who wrote an essay about the Castro Sweep in the 2002 anthology Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism . “The first arrest happened a block away from the federal building. The tactical coordinator for ACT UP stepped out into the street to talk to the commanding officer and he was immediately grabbed, thrown face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, and then taken away. No one had seen anything like this at a queer protest in San Francisco for a number of years.”
By the time the rally reached the Castro, the marchers were met by hundreds of police officers. It was a sign of how the night would end.
“When I got there I saw the single largest mass of San Francisco police officers I had ever seen at that point. The entire intersection of Castro and Market streets was filled with officers standing in rank,” said Koskovich. “At this point it was still a peaceful march of people staying on the sidewalk. It was completely perplexing why the police force brought out a horde of officers.”
Angered by the police confrontation, marchers sat down in the middle of Castro Street near Market. One group staged a die-in, and others spray-painted stenciled slogans and body outlines on the pavement as a “permanent AIDS quilt” on the street. Police then announced that the demonstration was an “illegal action” and began a sweep action, marching in unison down Castro toward 18th street, forcing thousands inside the Castro’s homes, stores, bars and restaurants under virtual house arrest. According to one eyewitness:
The police soon charged in earnest. I saw one officer advance with his baton in a jabbing position, a technique that the San Francisco Police Commission banned after an officer using it nearly killed Farmworkers Union co-founder Delores Huerta last year. Others pushed with the sides of their batons, knocking the front of the crowd off balance. I fell against the person to my left, scraping my ear, then regained my footing.
After a partial withdrawal and a second effort to clear the area, the police announced that the entire block of Castro from Market to 18th St., including the sidewalks, had been declared an illegal assembly area. The crowd held its ground, milling into the street and repeatedly chanting “Cops go home” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, SFPD go away.” A group of officers reacted by ramming their motorcycles through the center of the crowd.
In the confusion, I lost sight of the friends I had been standing with and made my way to the opposite side of Castro St. From that vantage, I watched an officer break ranks, approach a man standing peacefully in the street, and beat him over the shoulder. Shortly thereafter, I saw a second officer pin a bystander against a news box, then club him to the pavement. Other cops joined in, one of them so eager to land a blow that he carelessly clubbed a fellow officer.
Minutes later, I heard someone calling out my name and spotted Alex Chee, one of the friends I had marched with, leaning from an ambulance moving slowly through the police lines. “I’m going to the hospital with Mike,” he shouted. With a sinking feeling, I pushed to the back window; inside, I could see another friend, Michael Barnette—a 19-year-old who was attending his first ACT UP demonstration—strapped motionless on a stretcher.
Michael received several stitches to close a gash across his eyebrow. According to witnesses, an officer identified as a captain in the SFPD Tactical Unit and an event commander for the October 6 protest clubbed Michael on the head as he stood on the sidewalk on the west side of Castro St. From the opposite corner, I had heard protesters chanting the officer’s helmet number—1942— but had not seen the beating.
This went on from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. in an action which reminded everyone of the White Night riots ten years earlier, when San Francisco police rioted in the Castro following the conviction of Dan White of manslaughter for the assassination of Harvey Milk (see May 21).
The following night, 1,500 protesters demonstrated the police action in the Castro. Mayor Art Agnos issued a statement to the Bay Area Reporter saying that previous night’s police acction was “deeply disturbing, and if even 25 percent of the allegations turn out to be true then what happened October 6 is unacceptable.” Deputy Police Chief Jack Jordan was demoted, and he resigned the following month. Other high-ranking officers were re-assigned and reprimanded. The Tactical Squad was relived of one of its primary respondsibilities, crowd control. “Civil disobedience did occur,” Pilice Chief Frank Jordon said, but the repsonse was “inappropriate” and represented a command breakdown. Three years later, the city settled a series of lawsuits brought by victims for $250,000.
15 YEARS AGO: Matthew Shepard Assaulted: 1998. At around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 102 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard. Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.
Aaron, in a state of panic, ran to the nearby home of Charles Dolan. From there, they called 911, and then the both of them returned to Matthew to wait for the sheriff’s deputy to arrive. Deputy Reggie Fluty later testified that the only spots not covered in blood on Matt’s brutally disfigured face were tracks cleansed by his tears. She told the barely breathing victim, “Baby, I’m so sorry this happened.”
Matthew was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition. He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.
By the end of the day, Matthew Shepard was laying quietly in a soft, warm bed with clean sheets after having spent eighteen hours in the freezing high plains of Wyoming tied to a fence post. He was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.
Bruno Balz: 1902. He wrote some of Germany’s most famous songs for film despite his career being hampered by official persecution for his homosexuality. When Balz was arrested by Nazi authorities for violating Germany’s Paragraph 175 outlawing male homosexuality, he was released after several months’ imprisonment on the condition that his name not be mentioned in public. When he was arrested again in 1941 and tortured in Gestapo headquarters, his songwriting partner, Michael Jary, appealed to authorities to release him, saying that he could write songs to lift German morale as part of the war effort. He wrote two of his greatest hits just days after his release. And while his songs would be criticized later for aiding the war effort, gays in Germany were buoyed by what they saw as double meanings in some of his songs. One song in particular, his 1938 classic “Kann denn Liebe Sunde sein?” (“Can Love Be a Sin?”), became something of an anthem for Germany’s underground gay community:
Every little Philistine makes my life miserable, for he’s always
talking about morality. And whatever he may think and do, you can
see that he just doesn’t want anyone to be happy…. Whatever
the world thinks of me, I don’t care, I’ll only be true to love.
Can love be a sin?
Can’t anybody know when you kiss,
When you forget everything out of happiness?
Balz’s troubles continued even after the war and the fall of Nazism. After all Paragraph 175 remained the law of the land until 1994 after Germany’s reunification, which meant that the strictures on him remained in effect preventing him from receiving his due credit for his music. Balz died in 1988. There is now a Bruno Balz theater named for him in Berlin.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?