The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 25
April 25th, 2014
Other Events This Weekend: Hill Country Ride for AIDS, Austin, TX; AIDS Walk, Kansas City, MO; Rodeo in the Rock, Little Rock, AR; AIDS Walk, Miami, FL; Side By Side International LGBT Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; White Party, Palm Springs, CA; Splash, South Padre Island, TX.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
Named for the nearby Forrest Theater, the restaurant and bar was bought in 1944 by Barney Zeeman, a pianist and former dance band leader in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1960s, the Forrest began advertising itself in gay magazines and travel guides. Zeeman died in 1976, and the Forrest continued to operate as a gay bar in various incarnations through the early 1980s. The location is now a leather bar known as the Bike Stop.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Miami Police Reveals It Keeps Tabs on 3,000 Homosexuals: 1962. Florida Gov. C. Farris Bryant convened a conference in Miami for area law enforcement officers to discuss the “serious and growing problem of homosexuality and other sexual perversions in the state.” The governor’s spokesman, Vernon Williams, addressed the conference, saying “The governor feels a diligent effort is required on the part of all agencies to curb the growth of homosexuality. But it s not our intention to start a witch hunt.” Williams had no need to announce a new witch hunt, as authorities in Miami and much of Florida had waged a rather long-standing campaign against gay people for much of the prior decade. Williams pointed to those campaigns and said that homosexuals were found “in the ranks of university professors, Sunday school teachers, and Scout leaders, among other professions.”
Williams wasn’t the only one discussing the results of various witch hunts. Closer to home, Dade County sheriff Thomas Kelly told the gathering that Metro police maintained a list of 3,000 local persons “suspected of being practicing homosexuals.” He told the gathering that the list was comprised of people “from 8 to 80,” and that they “tend to stay in groups and had many contacts throughout the county. … I feel that these people are sick.”
Gay Protesters Arrested At Philadelphia’s Dewey’s Malt Stand: 1965. Dewey’s was a chain of malt and sandwich shops with as many as eighteen locations sprinkled throughout Philadelphia. Many of them were open twenty-four hours a day, and the one on the 200 block of 13th Street known throughout Philly as the “fag Dewey’s” was popular with the LGBT crowd, especially after the bars closed. But “a large number of homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing” began to filter into the 17th Street Dewey’s management decided to keep the undesirables out of that location. On April 25, two teen boys and one teen girl were refused service. But instead of getting up and walking out, they remained seated and refused to leave. They were arrested along with Clark Polak, a gay rights leader and publisher of Philly’s gay magazine Drum, and all of them were charged with disorderly conduct.
The Janus Society, an early Philadelphia gay rights group, had joined with several other east cost gay activist groups to form the East Cost Homophile Organization (ECHO), which, in a 1964 conference, agreed to engage in more direct actions, including protests, to confront provocations against the gay community. That agreement had already spawned two planned protests in April: the first ever pickets for gay rights in Washington D.C. at the White House (see April 17) and in New York at the United Nations (see April 18). The Dewey’s sit-in was the perfect opportunity to put ECHO’s new-found commitment to direct action to work in Philadelphia by organizing a five-day protest and leafleting campaign. Over 1,500 pieces of literature were distributed in front of the malt stand while gay rights leaders negotiated with the restaurant’s management. On May 7, protesters staged another sit-in. Management called police, but this time police decided that they had no authority to force the protesters to leave. After an hour, management gave in and agreed to “an immediate cessation to all indiscriminate denials of service.” It is believed to be the first documented instance of a sit-in in support of LGBT rights.
St. Paul Voters Overturn Gay Rights Ordinance: 1978. In 1977, a proposed state anti-discrimination law failed to pass the Minnesota legislature. That defeat, which occurred just three weeks before voters in Dade County, Florida voted down a similar measure that had been approved by the Miami-Metro government, emboldened anti-gay activists at St. Paul’s Temple Baptist Church to turn their attention to that city’s three-year-old gay rights ordinance. Pastor Richard Angwin, in launching the petition drive to put the ordinance’s repeal on the ballot, stated frankly, “I don’t want to live in a community that gives respect to homosexuals.”
Anita Bryant, fresh off her victory in Miami-Dade, joined the fray along with her husband, Robert Green. A week before the vote, Anita Bryant failed to show up at a rally, telling some reporters that she didn’t feel well. Some suspect that the pie-throwing incident in Des Moines the previous fall may have unnerved her when she changed her story, saying that she was afraid she’d be assassinated. Local gay rights activist Jack Baker (see Mar 10) scoffed at the idea. “We’d be silly to shoot her,” he said. “She’s the best thing that ever hit the gay community.” Green showed up in her place and urged the crowd of 10,000 to stand against the forces of “moral breakdown of this nation,” saying “the devil is really working overtime.” Turnout was heavy for the special election, and St. Paul voters voted to repeal the the gay rights ordinance, 54,090 to 31,690. Soon after the election results were announced, over a thousand marchers demonstrated through the streets of St. Paul.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?