Yesterday about 250 people stood outside the Indianapolis City-County Building in a cold rain and sleet as part of the grassroots National Day of Protest. While that may not seem like a lot of people compared to the posts about massive protests with thousands of people, I'd like to share specific reasons why Indy's rally was one of the best.
Jerame had to go to a funeral, so he dropped me off at the protest on his way out of town. I brought along the camcorder for the blog and the bullhorn for the protest. As a veteran of several protests, I know you always come prepared. But even I was unprepared for what happened.
Story and video after the jump.
Jerame and I have been deeply involved in planning most of the last few gay rights protests in Indiana with a small cadre of other Indianapolis activists. We're a small handful or two, but we're determined. This time, the event was thrust upon the nation and none of us really had the time to step up and help organize the event.
Instead, word spread amongst facebook friends, on the blogs, and over e-mail. Aaron Brown from Muncie stepped in shortly before the big day as the event organizer. The statewide equality organization didn't promote the event and there was no pre-event publicity from the mainstream media.
It was miserably cold; my hands were numb in minutes. It was raining and sleeting; there wasn't an overhang or anything to gather under for cover. The wind blew constantly. There were no TV cameras or big flashy press corps. No radio stations thrust microphones under someone's face and begged them to say something. There was nothing across from the protest but an empty parking lot and the cars whizzing by on the wet street.
And still they came. They came without leadership. They came in weather only a duck would love. They came without an audience or a celebrity or a specific agenda. They came.
I quickly handed off the bullhorn to Projector Zac Adamson and he organized an impromptu reading of famous civil rights quotes. Random people from the rally would step forward, grab the bullhorn and read a short clip. When we ran out of quotes, people started sharing why they came to the rally and what they saw for the future. There were no scheduled speakers. There was no public address system or stage set up.
It was Hoosiers speaking their piece and listening to others do the same. The right wing fundies are automatically trying to paint our community with the broad brush of violence and the downfall of civilization, and yet this small crowd of angry Hoosiers spoke and listened - unlike the religious zealot who walked back and forth on the same side of the street waving his Bible and shouting abominations and conditions for a loving God.
Of course, one block down was a small collection of motley fundies with a "NO TO SODOMY" sign and one lone woman who drug her three small children out in the cold so she could stand on a separate street corner and hurl insults at passersby.
But what made the event special was the diversity of the people gathered. The racial intolerance meme circulated in some circles was definitely shot to bits. While the gathering was still dominated by white faces, I also saw Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos. I saw trans folk. I saw high school students and elders. From Abercrombie to Redneck, from lipstick lesbian to diesel dyke, gay to gay-friendly, the crowd wasn't just a bunch of white gay guys standing around demanding minority status. It was a community.
I tried to focus on that in the video I made of the protest - including one young guy who hung out in the back and told his story in Spanish. Because this white guy didn't need to "lead" or "organize" anything. New leadership is emerging and it's starting to look more like the true face of our diverse community. All I had to do was bring the bullhorn.