[Editor’s note: This article is one of many about demonstrations across California and in other states that can be read on Calitics, with pictures that tell a thousand words. There are reports on massive rallies in Oakland, Ventura, San Francisco, Seattle, Albuquerque, Sacramento, Chicago, San Diego, Santa Rosa, and elsewhere that should be seen to understand why one writer wrote that: “Our opponents may have won the Prop 8 battle but it may prove to have been a pyrrhic victory.” ]
About thirty of us gathered in front of the closed Starbucks on the plaza in front of the LA courthouse to assemble our petition materials for the rally and march a few blocks away. MoveOn.org, Courage Campaign (full disclosure: I founded Courage) and Credo Mobile have, over the past week, gathered over 200,000 signatures on a pledge to repeal Prop. 8. Our group that met for the first time this morning, was volunteers who signed up to get more sigatures from the crowd. And boy did they ever!
We made our way to the staging area outside of City Hall where we were greeted by thousands of jubilant folks with home made signs. The backstage set up reminded me in some ways of the May 1, 2006 immigration march on Wilshire Boulevard that had also sprung up from the peoplem, but was managed by organized labor: there was security, a rope line, a little blue tent under which speakers gathered before their turn. Rodney Scott, who puts on LA Pride every year, did a brilliant job with logistics along with a new group of young people called FAIR.
Just once, it would have been great to have a crowd with that energy and spirit talk to the people on the podium rather than have the elected officials and others talk to them. Theprogram was generally good, but way too long, ninety minutes while people waited in 90 degree heat. One speaker went on for nearly twenty minutes, apparently mistaking a rally for a filibuster.
Mayor Villaraigosa broke away from these horrible fires that have now dumped smoke into all of LA and destroyed numerous houses, to give an impassioned speech in English and Spanish telling us all to go talk to our neighbors and at churches, not to wait for another election. Meet people whom we do not know, break down barriers with familiarity. And he’s right. That’s the only way to win human rights struggles.
Rev. Eric Lee, President of the Southern Chrisitan Leadership Conference of California, gave a stirring and powerful speech about the need to put God back into church when it comes to this issue of human rights. He said, “I’m a straight black man who went” with me to the Mormon Temple three weeks ago to try to deliver 17,000 letters from Courage Campaign members to the President of the Church. He went because it was the right thing to do. He is a stand up guy, a true friend of the LGBT and progressive communities, a powerful voice for civility and dignity in our march to justice. We all need to get to know him much better.
Many of the other speakers were great, too, including City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and long time LGBT activist Torie Osborn. There were just too many of them.
At last, we marched. The crowd was animated, colorful, respectful and determined.
The most meaningful part of the day, though, was a meeting late this afternoon at the apartment of a young man named Vincent Jones. Vincent, a gay African American, pulled together about a dozen gay, straight, white, black and brown men and women for a serious conversation about how to build real conversation in communities where we lost. I was knocked out by these folks.
Zach Shepard, one of the guys who led the first spontaneous march here in LA two Wednesdays ago said, “In places like San Bernardino County we lost 70-30%, but that means that we have 30% of the voters there who support us. We need to find them, engage them and empower them to start talking to their neighbors.” One of the other participants said, “come to church. Meet people. You will be welcomed.” And she’s right. As Woody Allen says, 90% of life is showing up.
We did not show up before the election; we will now. The power of today’s march here in LA came was in the numbers and determination of individuals who are themselves leading a movement. The are not looking “up” for any established organization to tell them what to do. They know we can win next time, provided we organize, communicate and build.
This time, the campaign will be the people’s, a real movement. And this time we will win.
Rick Jacobs is the founder and chair of the Courage Campaign. He chaired the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in California and serves as Senior Advisor to Democracy for America. The Courage Campaign is an online organizing network empowering nearly 100,000 members to make this a new era for progressive politics in California. In 2008, the Courage Campaign will work with grassroots and netroots activists to increase California’s importance in the race for the White House, hold our elected officials accountable, and defeat the November initiative that would ban marriage equality.