July 20, 2006

July 19 Day of Action on Iran: A REPORT FROM NEW YORK CITY (plus, a report from Washington, D.C.)

Iran_noose_17 The following report on the demonstration in front of Iran's Mission to the U.N. in New York City was written by veteran gay activist and journalist Andy Andy_humm Humm (photo right), co-host for two decades of Gay USA cable TV news, and a former member of the New York City Human Rights Commission. The N.Y. demonstration was part of the July 19 International Day of Action Against Homophobic Persecution in Iran. (More reports and photos will be posted here over the next 24 hours as they become available.)
Brothers and Sisters,
About 100 LGBT activists and our supporters gathered at the Iranian mission to the UN on Third Avenue and 40th St. to protest the ongoing executions of gay people in Iran.
IGLHRC dumped their sponsorship of this vigil at the 11th hour on Friday--long after it had been advertised to the public by Gay City News and our Gay USA cable TV show and with no time to inform readers and viewers that IGLHRC believed the best way to be in solidarity with worldwide protests of Iran's anti-gay regime was to have a "dialogue" about it in Greenwich Village. They also scheduled their forum AGAINST the time of the vigil. So veteran activists in New York picked up the responsibility of organizing and showing up. There were MANY people there whose activism went back to the early 1970s and the Gay Activists Alliance including Joe Kennedy, Arnie Kantrowitz, and Ethan Geto.
Oddly POLICE didn't show up until the very end of the action. Usually they are on the spot herding demonstrators into pens blocks away. But we were able to occupy the sidewalk in front of the mission for an hour and a half at rush hour unmolested.
I addressed the crowd briefly, emphasizing our demands that the horrible mistreatment of gay people in Iran end, that other countries--including ours--grant asylum to gay Iranian refugees, and, most emphatically, that we oppose the Bush saber-rattling over Iran. Ann Northrop read the letter from the gay Iranian groups. The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of NY, spoke about their truly international commitment to LGBT issues. And the crowd was addressed by Jonathan Tasini, the anti-war candidate for the Democratic nomination for US Senate vs. Hillary Clinton, and former Public Advocate Mark Green who is running for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.
We heard from Tom Harrison of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy who is promoting the theme, "IRAN: Neither US Aggression nor Theocratic Repression." He invited us to go to their website at http://www.cpdweb.org/ to sign on to their statement. When we invited speakers from the crowd, we heard from the League for the Revolutionary Party, "a revolutionary socialist organization of workers and youth." And David Carter, author of the definitive book on the Stonewall Rebellion, reminded us that Iran once produced some of the most beautiful homoerotic poetry in world history.
From what I've heard about the "dialogue" downtown at the LGBT Center, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch ran a kangaroo court condemning all of us for our Western insensitivity, prompting someone in the audience to say, "So what you seem to be telling us is that there is nothing we can do to help the situation." A more objective report on their forum will appear in the Gay City News in a day or two. Go to www.GayCityNews.com
All in all, I'll put our left credentials at this action--assembled in a few short days--up against anything IGLHRC is doing.
At our vigil on Third Avenue, a Jewish participant reminded me that there were Jews here and abroad in the Nazi era who thought laying low was the best strategy. Every since then, the world--from Pope Pius XII to "good Germans"--have been castigated for not speaking up and saying something while the holocaust transpired under their noses. I will not begin to suggest that our little gathering in New York--even joined with 27 such vigils around the world--made much difference at all to the brutal, murderous Iranian regime. But taking the time to step out and stand up and THINK about these issues has changed us a bit and we will be more aware of the plight of LGBT people around the world. We could use HELPFUL suggestions for action from IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch, not condescending guilt trips. We refuse to be silent when gay people are being oppressed anywhere.
Finally, it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that our actions were somehow feeding into the Bush plan to attack Iran. If anyone thinks George Bush would go to war to protect the gay citizens of Iran when he is using anti-gay attacks at home to boost his failed presidency, you belong in an asylum.
In solidarity,
Andy Humm
New York, NY
RELATED READING -- THE WASHINGTON, D.C. DEMONSTRATION The todayDay_of_action_rob_anderson Washington Post has a well-written reflection on the action organized by Rob Anderson (left) at Washington, D.C.'s DuPont Circle yesterday (photo right), entitled "Pictures from an Execution Come Into Focus." In the article, Philip Kennicott writes that, "if the images trouble the conscience nonetheless, then the Day_of_action_dc viewer finds himself in exactly the position of every gay person who has wrestled with traditional morality and its often harsh absolutes. You find within yourself a moral consciousness that is wider than the wellspring of ancient religion. It is a dizzying sensation of liberation, and its power pulses through every line written by Walt Whitman. But it is, for many, a terrifying thought, and so images are suppressed. And the wasted lives of two young men are ignored by all except those who, through the strange ether of the Internet, feel a powerful kinship with them" You can read the entire WashPost article by clicking here.  And you can read a full account of Washington, D.C.'s action by Rick Rosendall, with texts of remarks -- including the reading of a statement by an underground gay activist in Iran -- and complete with photos, all on the website of D.C.'s GLAA (Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance) by clicking here.

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