“Banks get bailed out, we get sold out” and “We are the 99 percent” were the rallying cries of about 50 LGBT supporters marching down Santa Monica Boulevard Saturday in the name of "Occupy West Hollywood."
The rally began in Plummer Park, then traveled to Matthew Shepard Triangle (Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights) and back to demonstrate LGBT solidarity with the Occupy movement. Cars driving by honked to show their support on seeing the signs and rainbow flags the protesters carried.
“The economic and social equality issues the Occupy movement is pushing for are our issues too,” explained John Waiblinger of Occupy L.A.’s Queer Affinity Group, a group that was formed to assure gay issues were included in the Occupy movement.
The marchers pointed out that in many states people can still be fired from their jobs for being gay or transgender, that many LGBT citizens live at or below poverty level, that 42 years after the Stonewall riots, LGBT Americans still don’t have the same civil rights as heterosexual Americans do.
The group also emphasized the salient points of the Occupy movement: that 1 percent of income earners control almost 60 percent of the nation’s wealth, that banks, corporations and the wealthy get tax breaks but jobs aren’t being created, that median income for middle- and working-class people has gone down in the past 30 years, and that many people are still unemployed.
While the group was at Matthew Shepard Triangle, it detoured to the nearby Bank of America for an impromptu demonstration. Bank officials locked the doors to prevent them from coming in. Waiblinger said such action is now standard policy for banks whenever an Occupy protest appears.
The Rev. Dr. Neil Thomas of the Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles, which helped put together Occupy West Hollywood, explained that the values that the Occupy movement embodies are fundamental ones.
“The values are that no one should be left behind,” Thomas told Weho Patch. “We’ve basically sold out to corporate America, and the reality is that that is coming back to bite us right now."
"We’re seeing that in the way the working class, the middle class are hurting right now. It’s time for us to really start examining the way we do social systems and social structures and to bring back the values of faith and its history,” Thomas added.
Bishop Robert Clement, an openly gay official of the American Catholic Church, also participated in the rally, saying it was important to show a faith presence in support of the Occupy movement.
“[The Occupy movement is] basically human rights,” Clement said. “Where else should one be as a clergy person but here?”
Waiblinger told the crowd that the Occupy movement has strong LGBT roots, saying that the original OccupyWallStreet.org website was created by a group of transgender women.
Carolina Lynn, a transgender member of Queer Affinity Group, believes it is important to maintain the LGBT visibility in the Occupy movement.
“We want to change the control of the economic sector, the financial sector,” Lynn told Patch. “The top 1 percent is controlling anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the wealth in this country and leaving everybody else to fight over the crumbs. That’s basically what all Occupies are at its core. We fit right in with it, the LGBT community, our needs in general dovetail exactly with what the whole Occupy agenda is about.”
Queer Affinity member Nestor Lemus pointed out that the push for marriage equality has taken over so much of the gay rights movement that other aspects are not getting much needed attention.
Lemus talked to Patch about “pink-washing,” in which corporations such as Target give money for gay pride events, but also support anti-gay legislation. He also emphasized the need for congressional passage of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
While this was the first Occupy event in West Hollywood, participants say it won’t be the last. A Lavender Coalition rally is planned in Plummer Park for Dec. 17 at 10 a.m.