(Gays gather beneath the UN Plaza flagpole, after the rainbow flag had temporarily been raised, for the rally's conclusion. Credit: Bill Wilson.)
One day after the world marked International Human Rights Day, just over fifty people attended a one-hour rally in San Francisco, the city where the United Nations was chartered, to demand full protection of the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people everywhere.
Starting at noon on Saturday, December 11, we assembled at UN Plaza, by the obelisk engraved with the UN's original and human rights charters, and taped flyers to the edifice that called for justice in the murder of Honduran gay youth and democracy activist Walter Trochez.
Mobile sound wizard Billy Bradford set up mics and just-loud-enough speakers, then placed them near the US and rainbow flags in front of the obelisk.
The rally was emceed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who made opening remarks, summing up the outrage many of us feel about the UN vote in November removing gay people from a resolution deploring extrajudicial and arbitrary executions. He also spoke about our local efforts at consulates over the years protesting or celebrating with our brothers and sisters around the world, and Board of Supervisors' proclamations.
South African-born gay artist Clinton Fein criticized his homeland, which is the only country whose constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, for its anti-gay vote. He wants South Africa to vote in favor of the pro-gay resolution introduced on Friday by U.S. at the UN. This will allow South Africa to resume the leadership role she assumed following the abolishment of apartheid, not stain the efforts of Nelson Mandela with homophobia and discrimination.
State Sen. Mark Leno was unable to join us, but he sent a written statement calling on the UN to undo the damage of its vote and applauding activists for bringing visibility to our anger over the resolution. Leno, speaking as a Jewish man, reminded us of the suffering Jews have endured. The statement was read by veteran global gay activist Tate Swindell.
Longtime African-American transgender AIDS activist Veronika Cauley expressed solidarity and love on behalf of all of San Francisco's citizens toward LGBT folks and people with AIDS around the planet.
Our rally ended with everyone getting a copy of the lyrics to the unofficial gay anthem "Over the Rainbow," and veteran LGBT marriage equality advocate Molly McKay leading us in singing that song of hope and optimism.
Bevan then took out his large rainbow flag, a dozen or so of us grabbed the edges, and we gaily walked over to the golden flagpole with the UN blue flag flying on top. Two workers from the Department of Public Works, John and Miguel, lowered the UN flag and tied our rainbow flag underneath it, then raised both flags.
When the flags reached the top, the sun broke through the overcast clouds, and we were joined by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Our message in placing the flags together was to say to the UN, gays need the global body to protect our human rights, at every opportunity.
Once the flags were lowered, we spontaneously broke into one of the verses from "Over the Rainbow," before we all hugged each other, exchanged greetings of the season, and brought the rally to an close.
In terms of media turnout, radio stations KCBS and KPFA sent reporters, community-based photographer Bill Wilson snapped away, WBAI in New York City spoke with us afterward for a story running next week, Bay Area Reporter sent staff photographer Rick Gerharter, and the Golden Gate [X]press newspaper had reporter Chase S. Kmec cover the rally. Read Kmec's excellent piece here.
Ken Hodnett, community videographer, was present and edited a great video of the speeches and actions at UN Plaza on Saturday. Thanks, Kenny! Have a look:
Here's a shout out to everyone who pitched in to make the rally, our expressions of anger and love, the raising of the rainbow flag, the sing-a-long "Over the Rainbow," and international gay solidarity a reality yesterday: Thank you!
(Dedicated to the life and activism of Hank Wilson.)