Monday, November 17, 2008

The day the music died for the gay leadership

Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born."?
Saturday's 25,000-strong anti-Prop 8 grassroots protest in San Diego. Click inside the picture to see it really big.
Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."?

Was it really just six days ago that I was apparently the first person to utter the phrase "Stonewall 2.0"?

It was. But I am not alone now. Let's have a look at what influential people are saying six days later.

Andrew Sullivan: "The ads that ran in No On 8 were the usual fearful, focus-group driven, conviction-free pap. ... How many struggles do we have to wage with these people (HRC and its ilk) always, always failing to lead -- before we demand accountability and reform? Losing a battle this important should mean, at least, the rolling of some heads."

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga: "The Human Rights Campaign ... is being rendered irrelevant by current events, and with irrelevance, it will shrivel up and die on its own. ... The anti-Prop 8 campaign was an exercise in frustration. What we're seeing now ... is brilliant. ... These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of its so-called, self-appointed 'leaders' to give them permission to engage. ... There is nothing more dangerous for the status quo (the 'system') than people suddenly feeling empowered. ... I suspect history will show that the defeat of Prop 8, rather than halt momentum toward marriage equality (as I once feared), will prove the spark that launches the movement nationwide. And none of that will be thanks to the so-called leaders at the establishment gay rights groups."

Syndicated columnist Wayne Besen: "There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona. ... The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... That this huge outpouring of organic outrage is not being channeled through official organizational channels has enormous implications. ... We are not the same movement we were prior to Nov. 4. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die. ... Anti-gay forces unleashed a ferocious storm with powerful winds of change that will only end with the sound of wedding bells."

Bay Area Reporter: "Underestimating their opponent's resources, an LGBT community lulled into complacency by an inaccurate Field Poll, a 'pathetic' Web site that at times was not fully functioning, an under-funded initial media buy, and a campaign lacking statewide cohesion are just some of the reasons for Proposition 8's passage, a senior official with the No on 8 campaign told Sacramento LGBT Democrats Monday, November 10."

I could go on, because the blogosphere is full of this stuff and, as soon as they make it to the streets, the gay newspapers likely will be, too.

The organization No On 8 failed us. Before the TV ad war started, we were up 14-17 points in the polls. Then No On 8 spent some $37 million of your money to spam the California airwaves with really lousy ads, while the other side spent a similar amount to spam the California airwaves with ads that were, whatever else they may have been, effective. While the bad TV ads were not the only component of our loss (last-minute preaching from the pulpits was a factor), had our ads been good ads, we would have held onto our lead. And producing those mindnumbingly expensive ads (which I and many others publicly criticized as they were airing) was one piece of the war that No On 8 had 100% control over.

Although the HRC-like Equality California group is not solely to blame, it's likely fair to say EQCA was the biggest component of the No On 8 coalition, along with such entities as the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, The San Diego LGBT Community Center and others.

But, as Wayne, Andrew and Markos (combined, they have a massive readership) essentially say: That was then, this is now. We have now indeed entered Activism 4.0 or whatever the hell you want to call it. Our "leaders" let us down and you -- you, the average gay or lesbian citizen who just wants to have equal rights and maybe even get married -- you have seized power by using Facebook and your blogs, e-mail and Twitter, MySpace and text-messages to launch a new gay movement -- one that can get 25,000 gays and lesbians into the streets of sleepy San Diego on a Saturday morning, one that got 12,000 people into the streets of New York to protest something that happened in California.

A movement that got gay and lesbian Americans to stage simultaneous protests two days ago in hundreds of American cities and towns -- including in Allentown, Fargo, Fayetteville, La Crosse, Macon, Shreveport and Missoula -- and, in California alone, in Alameda, Bakersfield, Berkeley, Big Bear Lake, Chico, Claremont, Colton, Costa Mesa, Delano, Escondido, Eureka, Fairfield, Fresno, Hemet, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Marysville, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, Moorpark, Moreno Valley, Mountain View, Napa, Oakland, Palm Springs, Pasadena, Pomona, Porterville, Rancho Cucamonga, Redding, Redlands, Riverside, Sacramento, Salinas, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, San Rafael, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, South Lake Tahoe, Stockton, Temecula, Tracy, Turlock, Ukiah, Vacaville, Ventura, Victorville, Walnut Creek and Yucca Valley.

Wow.

You don't have to listen to the gay "leaders" who failed you anymore, you don't have to give them any more money, you just have to figure out what you want to do next with the power that now is yours -- to get what you want: Full equality. I am intensely eager to see your next steps. It is an exciting time indeed.

(That said, I feel a need to insert a caveat: Not every big gay group had a hand in this massive disaster and even one that did, NCLR, still deserves support. NCLR, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are now fighting in the California Supreme Court to annul Prop 8 -- a very important effort. NCLR's Shannon Minter was the lead legal dude among those who won the marriage case in the first place. My heart went out to Shannon in the last couple of weeks before Nov. 4 when I started to sense that No On 8's endless bumbling was going to shatter his world and return California gays to being second-class citizens. The purely legal groups in our movement do heroic work every day, so my diatribe tonight is not an across-the-board assault on every non-grassroots gay entity. My diatribe is aimed at No On 8, the forces in our movement that shaped No On 8/EQCA's mindset on this campaign, and the entities in our movement that persuaded or cajoled No On 8 to proceed as it did -- even as so many other voices were telling them over and over, "You're screwing this up.")

Finally (this is, like, my longest blog post ever, I should get paid for these), the moment has arrived to extend a gigantic thank you to the Yes on Prop 8 folks, to the Roman Catholic bishops, to the Knights of Columbus, to politicized fundamentalist Christians and, most especially, to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka The Mormons, since they funded half of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. I could tell you why in my own words, but let's let comedian Wanda Sykes do it for us instead. This is Wanda, speaking at Las Vegas' anti-Prop-8 rally Saturday:

"When California passed Prop 8 ... I felt like I was being attacked, personally attacked, our community was attacked. I got married Oct. 25. You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation, I didn't feel like I had to, I was just living my life and, not necessarily in the closet, but I was just living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I'm gay. And that's the way people should be able to live their lives. We shouldn't have to be standing out here demanding something that we automatically should have as citizens of this country. And I got pissed off. They pissed me off. I said, You know what, now I gotta get in your face. And that's what we all have to do now. They pissed off the wrong group of people. They have galvanized a community. We are so together now and we all want the same thing and we are not going to settle for less."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stonewall 2.0 - 25,000 in San Diego

Ah, the numbers game. At the march's start, the Cajun and I figured 2,000 people per block for nine solid blocks: 18,000. Later, the march grew. The city police said 20,000. The organizers said 25,000. A Harbor Police officer told me 30,000. And I heard one San Diego Police Department supervisor tell a subordinate, "50,000." So...it was BIG.
All photos are by me except for #7 and #8, which are by Tony Lindsey. To get any photo full size, just click inside it.
The march, of course, was against Prop 8. The voters passed it Nov. 4. It amended the California Constitution to stop same-sex marriage, which had become legal on June 16, courtesy of the California Supreme Court.
Marches against Prop 8 took place today in 300 cities in 50 states and 8 countries.
Stonewall 2.0 indeed.
The spirit of Barack Obama's victory was ubiquitous.
This is one of Tony's superzoom pics. But there was really no way to capture the enormity of the march without being in a helicopter, which at least one local TV station was.
At the beginning, when the Cajun and I did our estimate, the march stretched nine solid blocks across more than two lanes of 6th Avenue. (This pic above is the one to click on to get a sense of the size of this march. These photos are wider than your computer screen -- newspapers need them big -- so drag the bar to the right to see the right side of the picture. And, of course, there were blocks' more of people behind the crest of that hill. Also, check out this photo on the Web site of The San Diego Union-Tribune.)
The very long march went from the northern end of Balboa Park all the way downtown, then curved back around and went up to the County Administration Center.
I have a sunburn.


This one and the one below are downtown on Broadway.

I shot this from the bed of a truck that served as the stage at the County Administration Center as the marchers began to crowd into the march's endpoint.
Using pieces of colored cardboard, the ralliers followed instructions from the stage to repeatedly create a giant "rainbow flag," to the delight of news photographers and cameramen.



Here's one for the bears.
Here's one for the club boys.
Here's one for the kids.
And here's just one of the thousands of awesome signs created for this 100% grassroots march.

UPDATE: But wait, there's more! Get this: San Diego's march was the largest one in the country. Say what? No, really, it's true. The highest estimate for Los Angeles was 12,000. The highest estimate for San Francisco was 10,000 (the San Francisco Chronicle said 7,500). The New York Times and the Chronicle reported 4,000 in New York City (one blogger said 20,000). Boston had 5,000. Check out this photo at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Now, let's discuss. What could explain this? Here are some of my theories:

1. San Diego gays are more mainstream-ish than gays in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and they are, therefore, more interested in being able to get married.

2. Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders' outspokenness on same-sex marriage inspires people. His daughter is a lesbian activist.

3. The San Diego Union-Tribune's advance coverage did the trick, actually getting gays out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

4. San Diego is the new pink.

For the record, San Diego is America's 8th-largest city, with a population of 1,266,731. The bigger cities are San Antonio, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

But it gets more interesting than that. San Diego falls to 17th place when you look at "metropolitan statistical areas," coming in behind the metro areas of Minneapolis, Seattle, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Phoenix, San Francisco, Detroit, Boston, Atlanta, Washington (DC), Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Despite my theories, you still gotta wonder, WTF?

Wockner blog front page

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stonewall 2.0? Gay Activism 4.0?

Stonewall 2.0.
Is that what Saturday might be?
10:30 a.m. PST / 1:30 p.m. EST.
Decide for yourself.
The original call is here.
And the central organizing site is here.

But just like the mongo demonstrations we've seen in California since Nov. 4, Saturday's national protest-o-rama is being organized via Facebook, text-messaging, Twitter, blogs, RSS and e-mail. Totally grassroots. Totally fascinating. And I suspect it will be big.

Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born.

It's virtually impossible to know you're experiencing history in the making when you're right in the middle of it. But our present generation with their SMS texting and their Twittering (aka "tweeting") and their Facebooking are mad as hell over this, and it's lookin' to me like they're not going to take it anymore.

I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots. And come to think of it, what was Obama's victory but the victory of the grassroots?

So, if what I think might be happening is happening, the timing makes total sense. I guess we'll know Saturday once we get back from the events and log on and see what happened across America.

Oops, see, I'm still stuck in the past. Many of you will have your iPhones with you and will track it in real time. Or you'll be tweeting each other from start to finish. I just went to Twitter.com and clicked on "Watch a Video!" in the upper-right-hand corner and now I know what tweeting is. Apparently it was designed to report such things as, "I'm mowing the yard" or "I'm playing canasta with grandma" or "I'm shopping for shoes now at The Galeria." But it can also be used to say, "I'm heading to 6th and Upas RIGHT NOW for the big Prop 8 demo." As long as you don't exceed 140 characters. LOL.

Whatever all this is, it's working big time. And it's probably the most interesting thing I've seen on my beat as a gay-movement reporter since ACT UP. Ten thousand people marching for gay equality in San Diego last Saturday? Laid-back, hit-the-beach, "OMG, Muffy," dudelandia San Diego? No way. And then you tell me they did it without the leadership of the gay-activist establishment? You're kidding, right?

Except you're not. It did happen last Saturday. And also the Saturday before that, before the election. And it's been happening all up and down the state.

And on this Saturday, in California alone, it is set to happen in Bakersfield, Chico, Colton, Costa Mesa, Delano, Escondido, Eureka, Fairfield, Fresno, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Moreno Valley, Napa, Oakland, Palm Springs, Pasadena, Pomona, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Ventura. And that's just as of today. With the speed of "viral" organizing, the list could be twice as long by Saturday.

History in the making...?

P.S.: I had to LOL. I just checked the Web site of the über-establishment San Diego LGBT Community Center and there is nothing there about Saturday. There is, however, a lovely sponsorship ad from Nordstrom. There you have it. In a nutshell.

Update: I'm quoted talking about this stuff in today's San Diego Union-Tribune. A slight correction: I said "viral efforts," not "viraling efforts." But that's OK. We dead-tree media types are on a steep linguistic learning curve here. After all, I didn't know what "tweeting" was until three hours ago...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another mongo Prop 8 demo in San Diego

Between at least 7,000 (police estimate) and 10,000 people marched against Proposition 8 today in San Diego, from Hillcrest, the primary gayborhood, to North Park, the secondary gayborhood -- a distance of about two miles.
The protest was organized "virally" -- via e-mail and, primarily, text messages.
Another virally organized anti-Prop 8 demo the Saturday before the election drew similar numbers.
Gay street actions of this size are unheard-of in San Diego, apart from Pride, which draws around 150,000 people to Hillcrest each July.
Big anti-Prop 8 protests are taking place across the state, suggesting the gay masses have been awakened.
Prop 8, passed by voters Nov. 4, amended the state constitution to negate the state Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, which had been legal since June 16.
Wockner News photos by Fergal O'Doherty
To download these photos full size: 1. Go here. 2. Click on a thumbnail. 3. Underneath the computer-sized image, click on "Get Original Uploaded Photo." 4. Right-click and save to hard drive.

Wockner blog front page

Big Prop 8 protests in San Diego

This was the turnout last night at a Prop 8 protest in San Diego that got canceled. These protests are being organized virally (e-mail and text messages). Another one took place today, and police say at least 7,000 people marched two miles from the primary gayborhood of Hillcrest to the secondary gayborhood of North Park.
These snapshots come to us courtesy of San Diegan Ron Belanger, who headed over to Balboa Park because he was curious to see if the virally organized protest, canceled just hours before it was to take place, managed to get virally canceled. Obviously it didn't.
I had a couple of people taking photos at today's big march through the gayborhoods and will upload some pics here shortly.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thousands protest Prop 8 in San Diego

Between 7,000 and 10,000 people took to University Avenue in San Diego's heavily gay Hillcrest district the evening of Nov. 1 to protest Proposition 8, the Nov. 4 ballot measure that would amend the California Constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, negating the California Supreme Court decision that legalized it.
The protest took place as some 15,000 Christians from around the nation prayed in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium for passage of Prop 8.
Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and his lesbian daughter Lisa attended the gay event.
Amazingly, the gay protest was organized entirely via e-mail and, to the best of my knowledge, it was the biggest gay street action in the 14 years I've lived here, apart from the gay pride parade, which draws about 150,000 people.
The police seemed caught unaware by the protest's size and drove up and down the street demanding that people stay on the sidewalks and that motorists stop honking their horns in support.
There are no official numbers on how many same-sex couples have married in San Diego since it became possible on June 16, but there were an awful lot of happy-looking couples holding hands.
Eventually the crowd dispersed, the clubs filled, and I ate two yummy slices of pizza at Universal before biking home and being grateful the rollback of Daylight Savings Time gave me an extra hour to deal with processing photos, blogging and writing about this busy gay day in sunny San Diego.
To make a photo larger, click inside it.
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