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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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‘Just Shoot Them’: Trump Told Top US General to ‘Crack Skulls’ and ‘Beat the F’ Out of Civil Rights Protestors: New Book



President Donald Trump told America’s highest-ranking general and top law enforcement officials to “shoot” civil rights protestors in Seattle and Portland, “crack their skulls,” and “beat the f–k” out of them, according to a new book by a Wall Street Journal reporter.

“The President would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior,” CNN reports, citing excerpts from Michael Bender’s book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.”

“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”

Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the f–k out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes.

“Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.

But Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley (photo, right) refused, Bender reveals, with Milley and Attorney General Bill Barr often finding themselves the only ones willing to push back against the president.

General Milley, who made headlines Wednesday after delivering a stunning lecture on critical race theory and “wokeness” to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was not pleased by it, also pushed back against Trump senior advisor, white supremacist Stephen Miller.

During one Oval Office debate, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller chimed in, equating the scenes unfolding on his television to those in a third-world country and claiming major American cities had been turned into war zones.

“These cities are burning,” Miller warned, according to the excerpts.

The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes, noting the Army general who had commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan spun around in his seat and pointed a finger directly at Miller.

“Shut the f–k up, Stephen,” Milley snapped, according to the excerpts.

Read the entire report at CNN.


Image of President Trump and General Milley: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr

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‘No Time to Waste’: DeSantis Blasted for Going on Fox News as Biden and Miami Mayor Urge Him to Request State of Emergency



Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis is taking time to pose for the cameras and talk to Fox News in the wake of the stunning partial building collapse that more than 12 hours later has left 99 people missing, and feared dead.

DeSantis reportedly added an interview with far right Fox News host Mark Levin to his calendar for Thursday.

President Joe Biden during a news conference announcing a bipartisan agreement on, appropriately, an infrastructure bill on-camera Thursday afternoon urged the Florida Republican governor to ask for a declaration of a state of emergency, but DeSantis has yet to do so – nor has he declared a state of emergency himself for the Surfside disaster. President Biden appears to have ordered FEMA to Florida to assess the situation, which is the most they are allowed to do until the governor acts.

Also urging DeSantis to request a state of emergency declaration is Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who says “there is no time to waste.”

Apparently DeSantis believes there is, and many are blasting the likely 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.

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Watch: MSNBC’s Joy Reid Takes Down Architect of the Critical Race Theory Culture War in Epic Debate



MSNBC host Joy Reid took on Christopher Rufo, the think-tank “scholar” who claimed to be an expert on race because he works as a “scholar” at a conservative think tank. Speaking Wednesday, Reid got him to confess that he’s neither an expert in race nor in law, which is where the idea of critical race theory is generally taught.

Rufo claimed that Reid was attacking him on air, which she corrected, saying that she was doing nothing more than reading the quote from his own documents.

Reid began by asking at what point “critical race theory” was invented, and he didn’t know, saying sometime in the 1980s or 1990s. Reid cited the Harvard University paper in which it was first mentioned in 1981 by Professor Derrick Bell, who died in 2011.

She cited Rufo’s “documentary” on critical race theory that cites professors or professorial types who he admits are academics who he claims are replacing equality with equity, which is a conservative charge Reid said she’s been hearing since she was in high school. “To ending individual property rights and even to committing reverse genocide or calling for reverse genocide.”

Rufo said that it wasn’t true, which is when Reid said she would play the clip if Rufo allowed her to do it, but he wouldn’t. He said that the term is counter genocide, a genocide perpetrated in retaliation to another genocide.

Rufo claims in his talking points that the father of critical race theory was Ibram X. Kendi, who told Reid that he wasn’t a critical race theorist.

“I admire critical race theory but I don’t identify as a critical race theorist. I’m not a legal scholar, so I wasn’t trained on critical race theory,” Kendi said. “I’m a historian and Chris would know that if he actually read my work or understood that critical race theory is taught in law schools. I didn’t attend law school.”

Rufo began to complain that Reid was citing things and not letting him answer, but she explained she wanted to go through her list of disputes.

Rufo claimed that he wasn’t a political operative, but Reid rolled a video of Rufo speaking at the Claremont Institute on May 18 in which he called critical race theory a political “cudgel,” meaning a giant political weapon. He went on to supplement his point by quoting Barbara Applebaum, who he said was a critical race theorist. She’s, in fact, listed as being trained in philosophy and education and “her research is heavily influenced by feminist ethics, feminist philosophy, and critical race theory.”

He also quoted American author Robin DiAngelo who did her thesis on whiteness in racial dialogues. She also is an education professor, not a critical theorist, according to her website.

“There are these very pathetic and very angry graduate students who try to fight me on these highly technical haggle interpretations,” said Rufo. “I don’t have time for this. Like I don’t give a sh*t.”

Reid noted that there again explains that critical race theory isn’t something being taught in kindergarten, it’s a graduate-level conversation among academics.

His argument fell apart from there.

See the videos below:


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