Over 300 march in Austin to honor Harvey Milk

MilkDay.Austin

More than 300 people marched and rallied in Austin on Saturday to commemorate the first Harvey Milk Day, according to Dallas activist Chastity Kirven, who attended the event and sent over the above photo. Kirven was also among the presenters at a pre-march conference organized by Equality Across America. I’ve swiped a few more pics of the march from Facebook and posted them after the jump. The Austin event was one of dozens across the country honoring Milk, a one-time Dallas resident who would’ve turned 80 Saturday. At Equality California’s Milk Day event in San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured attendees that “don’t ask don’t tell” will be “a memory come Christmas.” Watch video of Pelosi’s speech below.

—  John Wright

ExxonMobil protesters brave rain to deliver 'Dump the Pump, Fuel Equality' message

About 20 protesters braved thunderstorms Friday afternoon to deliver a message that ExxonMobil Corp. discriminates against its LGBT employees, and to call attention to the need for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  The protest was organized by GetEQUAL.

Three ExxonMobil stations in the Oak Lawn area were targeted. Protesters with signs chanted and talked to passersby.

At the station at Lemmon and Wycliff avenues, the manager complained to police soon after two protesters arrived, telling officers that they were hurting his business. Protester Chastity Kirven said an officer came over and said she was only relaying a message and wasn’t stopping the protest.

“Hurting his business. That’s the point,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet

GetEQUAL's next target: ExxonMobil

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Local activists from GetEQUAL — the national LGBT direct action group whose members have been arrested recently in Washington and San Francisco – plan protests outside three ExxonMobil stations in Dallas on Friday, May 14.
The protests are designed to draw attention to Irving-based ExxonMobil’s anti-gay employment practices as well as the need for passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, according to GetEQUAL’s Mark Reed.
“When the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company with nearly 30,000 employees in the United States refuses to protect the LGBT community against workplace discrimination, it underscores the need for Congress to pass ENDA now,” Reed told me Thursday. “Every day that Congress does not act on ENDA is another day when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees can be fired from ExxonMobil for simply being who they are.”
The rallies will take place outside ExxonMobil stations at 3716 Maple Ave., 4239 Lemmon Ave. and 2503 Lemmon Ave. in Dallas, and GetEQUAL is hoping to have at least 25 people at each location. Anyone interested in participating is invited to attend a planning meeting at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 8 at Wiedemark, in Suite 120 of the Ferrer Law Center Building at 2603 Oak Lawn Ave.

—  John Wright

Dallas activist Mark Reed says he was ready to go to jail today outside the White House

Mark Reed
Mark Reed in a screen grab from CNN.

Mark Reed says was prepared to go to jail today alongside gay Army Lt. Dan Choi and the five LGBT veterans who chained themselves to the White House fence to demand an immediate repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Reed, a Dallas business owner and an activist with GetEQUAL, said his assignment was to make sure the six were successful in linking their second hand to the fence after they walked up to it with handcuffs around one.

“If they gave me the signal I would go over there and help them put the second one on,” Reed said by phone from D.C. this afternoon. “That’s how [GetEQUAL co-founder] Robin [McGehee] got arrested when she assisted Dan [Choi] putting his handcuffs on the last time we were here. So I was in an arrestable position. … I’ve been mentally preparing myself for that. I was totally cool today if that was going to happen. I had phone numbers written on my arm. What’s great is that you know everyone here has got your back. There’s a whole chain in place.”

As it turned out, Reed wasn’t needed to assist with the handcuffs, so instead he helped hold up a sign in front of his shackled comrades until being told to move by police, as seen in the CNN video below.

“As we continued to get pushed out away from them, we continued to hold the sign in front of them, so that people clearly understood when they looked across the street, why they were handcuffed to the fence,” Reed said. “[White House Press Secretary] Robert Gibbs was actually walking through Lafayette Park, and one of the guys spotted him, so there was a whole group of people yelling at him. It was really pretty wild.”

Reed said he was shooting photographs and video the first time Lt. Choi chained himself to the fence in March.

“This one I was a more active participant, and it was really an exhilirating experience, to be able to stand with five brave veterans and Dan Choi, as they chained themselves to the fence, and to continue to put more pressure on Obama, to not study this thing [DADT] for another year,” Reed said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, it could be several years before we could actually have it repealed. I think visually seeing six soldiers, one from each military division, being chained to the fence, and Dan coming back a second time, I think sends a powerful message.”

Reed said he and his partner, Dante Walkup, arrived in D.C. at 5 a.m. this morning, before a planning meeting at 9 a.m. and then the action at noon.

Though very tired, Reed said he’s looking forward to a meeting tonight where GetEQUAL leaders will discuss the possibility of another action in the next few days.

Reed said the six who were arrested today will have to spend the night in jail. He plans to attend their arraignment tomorrow.

Reed didn’t become an activist until a few years ago, when he attended a protest outside First Baptist Church of Dallas. From there he became one of the lead organizers for last year’s National Equality March.

Reed is one of several activists from Dallas who’ve been involved with GetEQUAL. He said Chastity Kirven, who was arrested during a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month, was on her way from Dallas to D.C. to join him tonight.

“I’m excited to be involved in this part of our movement, because I think we’re on the cusp of good things,” Reed said. “Civil disobedience was a major part of the civil rights movement, so we’ve done a lot of learning from tactics and strategies that they used.

“The clock’s ticking, and midterms [elections] are around the corner, and if we lose a lot of seats, we could be waiting several years to get back in the position we’re in now.”

MORE VIDEO FROM THE PROTEST AFTER THE JUMP:

—  John Wright

Dallas activist Laura McFerrin took one for the team to help disrupt Obama's speech

GetEQUAL, the direct action group that disrupted the president’s speech during a Los Angeles fundraiser last night, continues to take on a Dallas strain. Last month, local activists Chastity “Chaz” Kirven and Michael Robinson were among those arrested during sit-ins at the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And last night, our own Laura McFerrin was involved in the operation to disrupt Obama’s speech. I spoke briefly with McFerrin this morning as she prepared to board a plane back to Dallas. McFerrin said she was driving two other activists to the event, Michelle Wright and Zoe Nicholson, when the street was closed down in front of them because Obama’s plane had landed early.

“I told Zoe and Michelle to get out of the car and start running,” McFerrin said. “The important part was Zoe was able to get in, because she was one of the three people yelling. I said, ‘I’m taking one for the team, get out of the car.’”

McFerrin, who planned on filming the whole disruption, said she didn’t arrive until an hour later, after it was over. Despite the glitch, though, she said she feels it was a success.

“We had activists get in there, and Obama heard us,” McFerrin said. “I think he was upset that he was being heckled and yelled at. Sometimes you have to upset people. I just think he’s going to notice that we’re not going away.  We want to be heard. We want action. Some people in the gay community are like, ‘Let him do his job,’ but it’s an immediate issue for a lot of people who are in the military right now. Sometimes you have to be disrespectful.”

According to a statement from GetEQUAL, the protesters were escorted out by security, but there were no arrests. The statement, which includes bios of each activist, says McFerrin was the only one of the six involved who isn’t from California. From McFerrin’s GetEQUAL bio:

“She organized a protest at First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX after the minister preached a sermon, “Why Gay is Not Okay.” Laura is the director of ‘March On,’ a documentary following the lives of several LGBT families on their journey to the National Equality March in Washington last October.  She believes that this direct action will serve as a wake-up call to Obama and remind him of his promises.”

—  John Wright

ENDA rally in Dallas: video

Video taken outside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office on Central Expressway in Dallas. Rallies in support of ENDA took place in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and cities across the country.

The rallies coincided with the arraignment hearing for the ENDA 4, which includes Dallas activist Chastity Kirven. They were sentenced to six months of staying the hell out of Nancy Pelosi’s office.

—  David Taffet

ENDA 4 get 6 months probation

The ENDA 4: Chastity Kirven is third from left
The ENDA 4: Chastity Kirven is third from left

The ENDA 4 received a sentence of 6 months probation. Chastity Kirven just contacted Dallas Voice with the news and forwarded the picture above taken after the hearing. During her probation, Kirven must stay away from the Capitol and related offices. Violation could result in serving the time in jail.

Get Equal’s release said, “The ENDA 4 have been sentenced to 6 months of staying out of Nancy Pelosi’s office.”

Two of the ENDA 4 were from Washington D.C. and also were given community service as part of their sentence. Kirven said she and one other did not because they were from out of state.

A rally in support of them and their goal of getting the Employment Non-discrimination Act out of committee and to the floor of the House for a vote will take place today at 3:30 outside the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The office is located in the hotels.com building on Central Expressway north of Meadow Road. Similar rallies will be held in Austin, Houston and San Antonio and in other cities across the country.

—  David Taffet

DC arraignment for ENDA 4 today; local rally planned outside Hutchison's office

Chastity Kiven and others as they are led in handcuffs from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 18
Chastity Kiven and others as they are led in handcuffs from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 18.

The ENDA 4 will appear in a D.C. courtroom today for their arraignment. Dallas activist Chastity Kirven said that their attorney, former Attorney General for the District of Columbia Robert Spagnoletti, has worked out a plea agreement.

Kirven said that more than 200 supporters signed up to attend the hearing. Demonstrations supporting the ENDA 4 and their goal of getting the Employment Non-discrimination Act out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote will take place today across the country.

In Dallas, supporters will gather outside the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The rally will begin at 3:30 p.m. The office is located at 10440 N. Central Expressway in the hotels.com building (on the east side of Central Expressway between Meadow Rd. and Royal Lane).

When the rally ends at 5:15 p.m., Get Equal, the group sponsoring the demonstration, will gather at The Brick in Oak Lawn and get an update on the arraignment in D.C.

Kirven and three other activists were charged with illegal entry when they refused to leave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office after a scheduled meeting with her staff. The meeting was to encourage Pelosi to move ENDA out of committee and up for a vote.

UPDATE: 10:55 a.m. — From a report from National Equality March and Get Equal in Washington D.C.

The ENDA 4 pleaded NOT GUILTY to charges stemming from the March 18 meeting in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. They have been sent to an immediate “status hearing” in the same courthouse. The judge has ordered them to stay away from the Capitol and related buildings.

Kirven told Dallas Voice yesterday that she expected to plead “no contest” and was told that her attorney had worked out a plea deal that would have included community service and six months probation. No word on what happened to the plea bargain.

Among those in attendance at the hearing was Lt. Dan Choi who has been charged separately. Earlier on that same day, he was handcuffed to the White House fence protesting “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

—  David Taffet

ENDA Four: Chastity Kirven speaking in Pelosi's office

Four people were arrested in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington D.C. on Thursday. Here, Dallas activist Chastity (C.D.) Kirven speaks and in the second video is arrested. The video is by Mark Reed, also of Dallas. The group, from the activist organization Get Equal, was demanding the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) be moved to the House floor for a vote.

See this Friday’s Dallas Voice for more information.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Dallas group involved in San Francisco and D.C. protests

I just got off the phone with Mark Reed who was at the protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office yesterday. He was about to board a plane headed back to Dallas and will have more information, photos and video over the weekend.

Reed said that Michael Robinson was among those arrested in Pelosi’s Sn Francisco office. Robinson paid a $135 fine and was not taken into custody.

Mark Reed
Mark Reed

In Washington, the group met with an aide at 4 p.m. to discuss moving ENDA out of committee and onto the floor of the House. Without a commitment, the group refused to leave.

Reed said that his role was mostly to photograph and send communication about the event out. At one point, he was told he could take no more pictures. He said during the protest he was free to come and go and he brought the protesters food and water.

Kirven was among the protesters. She was arrested about 8 p.m. and taken to jail. Reed bailed her out at about 11 p.m. She has a court date set for April 4 on a charge of illegal entry.

Reed, Robinson and Kirven are involved with the new direct action group Get Equal. This is the first protest in which the new group has participated. The group also had a role in the Dan Choi protests at the White House.

Look for updates later in the weekend after the group returns home.

—  David Taffet