Following Mayor Dan Sullivan’s veto of the Anchorage equal rights ordinance earlier today, a protest was spontaneously organized via Facebook, Twitter, and announcements on pro-ordinance blogs. It was set to begin at City Hall at 5:00 PM — which was of some disappointment to me, because I don’t get off work until 5:00 PM and would be most of an hour catching a bus just to get there. But my coworker Pam Kelley — the same whose July 21 testimony about existing law I posted previously on this blog — was kind enough to drive across town to pick me up & drive me uptown. She took part in the protest as well.
The protest mostly was held across the street from City Hall just outside the Kaladi Brothers in the corner of the Performing Arts Center building. Unfortunately I forgot until after I’d taken a whole lot of photos that I’d left my camera’s settings on black & white. Oh well, that’s life; but there are plenty of color photos in my slideshow too, once I finally recognized my mistake.
Rightwing talk radio host and self-described homophobic racist Eddie Burke was there when I first arrived, interviewing people on what looked like a camera phone. I overheard a few of his questions — stupid questions, mostly, of the likes of “would you vote for special rights for fat people?” My friend John Aronno of Alaska Commons told me Burke asked him “Why do you want special rights?” John — who is straight — told him he didn’t want special rights — which is why he wanted LGBT people to be protected as well. I’d heard earlier that Burke had called for a counterprotest on his radio show, but didn’t seem any of his fans felt like showing up.
News media were there in force. I was one of several people interviewed by KTUU Channel 2 News, probably for the late night news. I understand that other media there included KTVA Channel 11 and the Anchorage Daily News. I caught several black & white pics of KTUU’s Jason Lamb making a live report during the 6 o’clock newscast. I also heard other people being interviewed, including a young male and female couple — the young woman telling the interviewer that she at the protest because many of her friends were gay, and she often heard other kids at school saying that they “didn’t want to be friends” with gay kids — something which clearly bothered her.
Later, someone heard that Mayor Sullivan was having dinner down the street in McGinley’s Pub, of which he is part owner. For a few minutes the protest moved — mostly standing in front of the Atwood Building across the street from McGinley’s.
One protester entered McGinley’s to ask if Mayor Sullivan was there; he was told the mayor had been there, but was no longer. Given the moral courage the mayor had displayed in facing the media with his veto — i.e., none — we weren’t terribly surprised. The protest moved back to Sixth Avenue to City Hall and the PAC.
I took a bus home about 6:45, with my last couple of photos taken of bemused-looking people waiting for buses at the Transit Center. My friend Steve reported later that the protest lasted until about 7:30. It was hard to make a good count because of people moving around and coming & going, but there were at least 100 to 125 protesters.
I was disheartened — if not quite surprised — by Dan Sullivan’s veto. This protest put heart back into me, thanks to the spirit of perseverance of my LGBT friends, and the equivalent anger and dedication to equality of our allies. Thank you to everyone who was there tonight, and to everyone who couldn’t be there but was present in heart and mind.
The slide show below is all the photos I considered good enough to keep. It can also be viewed full screen. You can also see the entire set in my Flickr photostream.
Postscript: See Heather Aronno’s account of tonight’s protest:
- 8/17/09. “We came, we saw, we protested” by Heather Aronno (SOSAnchorage.net). (And Heather: feel free to make use of my photos.)