Tarrant Pride parade a rousing success, organizers say

Spectators largely ignore anti-gay protestors; police arrest, ticket Kingdom Baptist members for disorderly conduct

FW-parade

ON MAIN STREET | The float carrying members of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association makes its way down Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com
FORT WORTH — Organizers of the 30th annual Tarrant County Gay Pride celebration said this week that the events were a rousing success, despite the presence of a relatively small but loud contingent anti-gay protestors at the Oct. 1 Pride parade.

This year the parade was moved from its traditional three block route down South Jennings Street to a seven block stretch of Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. And Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association President Daune Littlefield said she was pleased by the number of spectators who turned out.

“I saw people lining both sides of the street for all seven blocks of the parade route,” Littlefield said. “I know there were definitely more people there than in previous years. I’d say we had maybe three times as many people at the parade as last year. We will definitely be bringing the parade back downtown again next year.”

Littlefield acknowledged that “there were a few glitches” in the parade and the street festival that followed on Main Street near the Fort Worth Convention Center. But she said, “I guess that was to be expected since this was our first year to hold the parade downtown. Next year, it will go even more smoothly.”

Although the Pride Week association had to raise more money to cover the higher costs of moving the parade downtown this year, Littlefield said organizers still came out ahead.

“Money-wise, it was a real success,” she said. “We paid for everything, and we still have money left over, seed money for next year’s event and money for the scholarship fund.

We made a commitment to the community in moving the parade and expanding our celebration that we would create this scholarship to give back to the community. And we will follow through on that commitment no matter what,” Littlefield said.

Littlefield also said that the annual Pride Picnic in Trinity Park — Tarrant County’s original Pride event and long considered its most popular and most successful Pride event — also went off “without a hitch.”

“We had more people there than last year. We usually have around 2,500 people at the parade and this year, I’d say we had at least 3,000,” Littlefield said. “The weather was fantastic and the event was just phenomenal. There was no ruckus, no problem anywhere.”

Littlefield said that she was pleased that spectators there for the parade for the most part ignored the anti-gay protestors, at least some of whom were reportedly with Kingdom Baptist Church, a small congregation out of Venus led by Pastor Joey Faust.

“I was on a float at the end of the parade, and as we moved down the parade route, the protestors kind of moved along with us, shouting nasty things through their bullhorn,” Littlefield said. “But we would just start cheering and yelling, and the crowd would cheer and yell with us to drown them out. I was really glad to see that everybody just ignored them and didn’t engage with them, for the most part.”

Faust and other Kingdom Baptist members also staged protests outside Fort Worth City Hall two years ago during a meeting  in which the City Council approved the addition of transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Faust and his followers also confronted activists during demonstrations staged in Fort Worth by Queer LiberAction in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

And prior to the Pride parade, Faust sent an open letter, addressed to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, to area media outlets castigating Price for participating in the parade as one of three grand marshals.

At the end of the parade, the protestors — who had started out standing on Main Street near the Weatherford Street intersection where the parade started — moved down Main

Street to position themselves near the Convention Center in the area near where the street festival was being held. Using a bullhorn, the protestors continued to harangue festival attendees, at one point calling those attending the parade “wild dogs” and “wild animals” who were “parading their perversions in the street,” until Fort Worth police officers ordered them to leave.

Littlefield said she was told that three of the protestors were arrested and another 10 ticketed. But FWPD’s LGBT Liaison Officer Kellie Whitehead said that only two of the protestors were “cash bonded” for disorderly conduct because they were using offensive language over the bullhorns.

Being “cash bonded,” Whitehead explained, means that person arrested on a Class C misdemeanor offense has to pay a set fine, or a portion of that fine, before they are released.

She said her superiors instructed her not to release the names of those arrested, but Whitehead did say she believes those arrested were members of Kingdom Baptist.

Littlefield said she had heard complaints from several people who were upset that the protestors were allowed to stand at the edge of the street festival after the parade for so long — about an hour and a half, she estimated — and harass those attending the event before police forced them to move.

“That’s something we will talk to the police about for next year,” Littlefield said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Tea party mixes in social issues; details in anti-gay stoning; GLAAD Media Awards

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Surprise!!! The tea party in Texas isn’t concerned only with fiscal issues, according to The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Turns out, it also contains its fair share of homophobes, racists and misogynists: “Tea parties arose out of concern for liberty and fiscal issues,” says tea-bagging State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. “However, you have a lot of people in the tea party groups in Texas that are focused on abortion, defense of marriage.” So let me see if I understand this — the tea party in Texas wants to shrink government if it means lower taxes for rich people, but wants to expand government if it means denying rights to minority groups? How convenient.

2. A 28-year-old murder suspect in Pennsylvania told authorities he killed his elderly victim by beating him with rocks because the Bible says homosexuals should be stoned to death. John Joe Thomas said he murdered 70-year-old Murray Joseph Seidman after the older man made sexual advances toward him. In fact, though, the two had been close companions and Thomas had been named executor and sole beneficiary of Seidman’s will. They met when Thomas was a patient at a psychiatric ward where Seidman worked. Thomas had recently been trying to get more money from Seidman, according to the victim’s brother. And Thomas became a suspect in Seidman’s murder after being picked up on other charges — indecent exposure, open lewdness, and disorderly conduct.

3. Russell Simmons and Ricky Martin were among those honored at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday in New York. Martin, who finally came out last March, took home the Vito Russo Award for promoting equality. Watch video of his acceptance speech below. For a full list of award winners, go here.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Another attack in a bar; this time it’s a lesbian who’s injured — and then arrested

Laura Gilbert says after she was beat up by patrons of an Opelika, Ala., bar because she’s gay, sheriff’s deputies there arrested her instead of her attackers.

Back on Jan. 28 we told you about John Skaggs, a 52-year-old gay man who was beaten with a pool cue in a Shreveport bar by another man who allegedly said he was going to beat Skaggs up because Skaggs is gay. The suspect in that case, 32-year-old William Payne, has been arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and the commission of a hate crime.

In that case, the owner of the bar, Tim Huck, told KLSA 12 television news the attack was unprovoked and was “totally 100 percent a hate crime for his sexual orientation.”

Now comes word from Opelika, Ala., about another gay-bashing in a bar, only this time the victim was a lesbian. And this time, law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene arrested only the woman who’d been beat up.

Laura Gilbert, 25, told WRBL 3 News that she had gone to The Villa outside Opelika with her friend from high school, Sheila Siddall, to celebrate Siddall’s birthday by singing karaoke. Gilbert said she felt uncomfortable as soon as she walked into the bar and people began staring at her, but she stayed because she didn’t want to ruin Siddall’s birthday celebration.

Later, when Gilbert and Siddall started to leave the bar, they were confronted by a woman who started a fistfight that moved outside and grew to include about 12 people, including two men. Siddall called 911 on her cell phone, but when sheriff’s deputies arrived they arrested only Gilbert. Siddall said the officers refused to even listen to her’s and Gilbert’s side of the story and were “over there cutting up with the ones who did it [beat up Gilbert].” New reports also indicated that the only person who suffered any injuries was Gilbert.

Gilbert is charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

Sheriff Jay Jones said that had deputies been told the fight was a hate crime, they would have reported it as such, and said they did not get information for the report from Gilbert and Siddall because the two were too intoxicated. When asked why the deputies did take statements from others at the scene who were also intoxicated, James said the deputies did the best they could.

Gilbert and Siddall have both since filed separate reports about the fight, but Gilbert told WRBL that she still hasn’t been contacted by officials.

Alabama does have a hate crime law, but it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

—  admin