This past Saturday, cities all over the country were host to simultaneous demonstrations against the initiatives passed on November 4th to restrict the rights of gay couples to marry or adopt in several states. Philadelphia was one of those cities, and Donna and I headed in to join the crowd.
I was raised to believe that I should be a leader, not a follower. My parents used the old sayings we’ve all heard – “If everyone else was going to jump off a bridge, does that mean you should too?” But mostly, I think, it stuck. So it was more than a little against my nature to go into a large group of people and start yelling what they were yelling. But, despite the corny-ness of the chants, the sentiment was one I wholly shared: marriage is a civil right, and shouldn’t be denied to any one particular group of people.
Why the hell anyone wants to get married is beyond me at this point, but hey – whatever.
So after picking up Karen, our straight sidekick for the day, in South Philadelphia, we headed to City Hall for the demonstration. We located the group (about 50-100 people) just before 1 p.m., then headed over to the parking garage below Love Park to drop the car. By the time we walked back to City Hall (less than a block), the crowd had multiplied exponentially. By the end of the day, the estimated number of protestors would swell to about 6,000, according to city police.
After standing around feeling awkward for a bit, we heard someone setting up a portable mic and amplifier. We turned around, only to find that we were about 5 feet from the organizer, Brandi Fitzgerald, who was preparing to make her opening remarks. Yikes. We were also surrounded by cameras and reporters from the local papers and news stations – KYW, Channel 6, Fox, Philadelphia Gay News. After speaking for a few moments, Fitzgerald handed the mic over to Rev. Jeffrey Jordan-Pickett, the pastor from the MCC of Philadelphia. He spoke for a few minutes, making it clear that he sees this struggle as one of civil rights:
After this, he led a short round of “We Shall Overcome,” adapting the lyrics to the purpose of the day:
And then there was some standard chanting. Again, the chanting is a little group-think for me, so it was somewhat awkward to be standing there shouting along with everyone. But not long after the chanting started, my friend Ashraf called – he was attempting to make his way through the crowd to us. To make it a little easier, we moved to some stairs by the street, where he had signs for us:
After about a half hour of standing on the sidewalk, waving and cheering at passing cars who honked their support, we watched a police car roll into the lane closest to the sidewalk – and immediately behind the police car, the crowd fell in. An impromptu march around City Hall! Yeah!
As we marched, more cars honked and waved. There was one dude who looked remarkably like Samuel L. Jackson who sort of followed the parade for awhile. He just kept honking and waving and flashing the peace sign. We waved to office workers who stood in the windows of their buildings, waving and giving us thumbs-up.
After the impromptu march, the crowd converged again on City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza. We hung around for another half hour or so before heading back to the car. On the way back, we were not at all surprised to see that Repent America had finally showed up to protest the protesters:
We were also not surprised to see that some of the gay folks were ready for them. This guy stood not to far from the RA folks, with the arrow pointing at them:
Hearts for that guy.
After the protest, we headed over to South Street to enjoy dinner and start planning plans for planning Karen’s wedding. Did that even make sense? Probably not.
More photos and short vids from the protest here.