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Our Nation’s Fine Heritage Of Protest Politics

Editor’s note: I am honored to share with you William B. Turner’s latest contribution to The New Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Turner is an author and editor known for his work on “Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy”, among other books, and a regular contributor to the Daily Kos. He writes occasionally here as well.

LGBT Pride events celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City.  In the Stonewall Riots, a group of queers, including a lot of transgender persons and street persons, fought back against an otherwise routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a queer bar.

Note two things: “routine police raid” and “fought back.”  Until Stonewall, and in many places for sometime afterward, police would routinely raid bars just to keep the queers in line.  If a person got arrested during one of these raids, the fact of the arrest would likely appear in the local newspaper, potentially ruining the man’s (people whom this happened to were usually men) career and family life.  Some states had statutes prohibiting serving alcohol to known “homosexuals.”  But statute or no, the police would conduct raids and arrest the patrons of the bar on whatever charges they could trump up.  A friend here in Oklahoma City reports that he arrived one evening at his favorite bar and kissed every man at the bar on the back of the neck as he walked by.  The police arrested him for public lewdness, but he demanded a trial.  The judge threw the case out, asserting that the conduct in question was not illegal.

Which brings us to the second point: “fought back.”  When I say queers fought back in the Stonewall Riots, I mean literally fought with the police, even pulling a parking meter out of the pavement and using it to blockade the police inside the bar.  Not bad for a bunch of nelly queens.

It is important to appreciate that this was a serious riot.  In rioting against injustice, the queers at Stonewall participated in the finest tradition of American protest politics.  They are the queer equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  The United States was founded as a nation on a riot – the Boston Tea Party — that grew into a war against the most powerful military in the world at the time.  We should be proud of the queer contribution to the fine history of protest politics in the United States, which includes various forms of protest against slavery, on behalf of voting rights for women, against the oppressive power of larger corporations, and against segregation and the Vietnam War.

We should also be prepared to engage in such protest again if the need arises.  Thanks to the political movement that emerged after the Stonewall Riots, no jurisdiction in the United States still allows, or requires, its police to conduct routine raids on gay bars.  We have made our own lives safer, better, and more nearly equal with our protests.  Our protests these days are more likely to take the form of law suits than street protests, but we should not take for granted the resources and respectability that allow us to use the courts rather than the streets to win our point.

The last great queer riot in the United States occurred on May 21, 1979.  The “White Night Riot” occurred as a response to the conviction of former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, who had assassinated openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone the previous November.  The jury chose not to find him guilty of first-degree murder despite the fact that White had climbed in a window at City Hall to avoid the metal detectors and was carrying extra ammunition despite no longer being a police officer.  His attorney claimed he suffered from diminished capacity as indicated by the usually very health-conscious White’s increased consumption of junk food, which detractors came to call the “twinkie defense.” Rioters started a fire at City Hall after breaking through the glass in the front doors, and set police cars on fire, eventually causing over one million dollars in damages.  Later that night police officers randomly attacked patrons at a gay bar.  In all, 61 police officers and 100 queers required medical attention as a result of the White Night Riot.

Queers are often more creative protestors, having created two of the greatest protest organizations in the nation’s history: AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) and Queer Nation.  ACT-UP pulled off one of the greatest protests in the history of the United States when they shut down the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C., thus forcing the FDA to make experimental drugs available to persons with AIDS before final approval.  ACT-UP also originated a totally new form of protest, the die-in, in which protestors would fall to the ground as if dying and, while still on the ground, shout statistics about AIDS deaths.  ACT-UP members also produced some highly effective and highly artful protest posters.

Queer Nation picked up on ACT-UP’s penchant for direct-action protests, expanding them to include all LGBT issues, not just AIDS.  Queer Nationals conducted subtle visibility actions, going shopping in malls with clothing and buttons that indicated their LGBT identity.  They adapted the die-in as the kiss-in, in which large numbers of same-sex couples would kiss each other in public places.  Queer Nation also produced some highly effective and memorable protest art.

In sum, “Pride” is the best term for the attitude all queers in the United States should take toward our collective participation in our Nation’s fine heritage of protest politics.

William B. Turner is a student of the history of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement.  He holds a Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin.  He has written on the statutory exclusion of lesbian/gay aliens from the United States from 1917 to 1990, Wisconsin’s pioneering legislation prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination, and on lesbian/gay rights issues in the Carter and Reagan presidential administrations in Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, which he co-edited with John D’Emilio and Urvashi Vaid.  He edited the section on the LGBT movement for The Encyclopedia of American Social Movements and wrote the entries on the Defense of Marriage Act, sexuality, and sexual orientation for The Dictionary of American History.  He posts regularly on the Daily Kos web site. He has also published A Genealogy of Queer Theory, as well as various other articles in law reviews on LGBT civil rights and African American civil rights.

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News

Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

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If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.

“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.

But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”

“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.

READ MORE: Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”

The allegations continue.

“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”

“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”

The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”

The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.

You can read The Beast’s full report here.

 

 

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Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

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When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.

The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.

Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”

READ MORE: George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”

“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”

CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”

Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.

Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”

The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”

READ MORE: ‘Ran a Bribery Center Blocks From the White House’: Comer Mocked for Claiming No Evidence of Trump Influence Peddling

Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.

The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.

“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.

After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.

Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.

READ MORE: Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”

“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”

“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.

National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”

Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”

Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

And yet another, wholly mocking Comer, who holds far-right anti-LGBTQ beliefs, said: “Or worse, what if it has woke trans undocumented drag queen athletes?”

Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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