Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thousands of protesters shut down temple square

Excerpts of an article by JoSelle Vanderhooft from,  photos from G. Gordon Photo.

It took Utah resident Jacob Whipple just 36 hours to put together a protest of Proposition 8 that drew thousands of protesters and all of Salt Lake Citys major news outlets to the LDS Churchs headquarters on the evening of Nov. 7.

I saw momentum started in California and I didnt want it to end, said Whipple, a gay man and a former Mormon who served a mission in Argentina. I wanted to show we can continue the civil rights movement in a peaceful way and earn the civil rights denied us.

Although announcements for the protest appeared in newspapers, on the Web pages of news stations and local gay rights groups such as Equality Utah, Whipple largely dispersed his call through emails, text messages and phone calls, which local gays and allied straights quickly passed along  By 6:00 p.m. protesters of all ages, races and sexes had packed City Creek Park.

We are the queer children of god and we have gathered tonight to change the world, proclaimed Troy Williams, the producer of KUER progressive radio show RadioActive and a columnist for QSaltLake.

Mr. Monson, the LDS Church is on notice, said Williams, referring to Thomas Monson, the current church president. We will no longer be shamed and silenced.

As Williams speech became more impassioned, touching upon what Williams called the LDS churchs embarrassment over its history of supporting polygamy and what he sees as its hypocrisy in continuing to seal multiple women to a single man in temple marriages, some of the other speakers became visibly uncomfortable.

I dont want hurt feelings on either side, Whipple said, taking the microphone after Williams speech. I know were hurting, but driving nails into it wont solve anything. He then urged the crowd to be civil and respectful to the church and to follow in the path of Martin Luther King, not Malcolm X.

We might disagree, but we can disagree without being disagreeable, echoed Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City. An openly-lesbian representative who authored a bill seeking to make workplace discrimination against gays and transgender people illegal, Johnson asked protestors to cheer the many LDS people who disagree with their churchs anti-gay marriage stance.

I dont think its Mormonism thats hurting us but lack of understanding, she said.

Next, former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson took the stage. A Utahn who grew up in the Mormon church, Anderson (who is straight) issued an executive order in 2005 that allowed the same-sex partners of city employees access to the city health benefits program. Drawing comparisons to the prior struggles of interracial couples to marry, Anderson called the churchs support of Proposition 8 a repeat of a tragic and deplorable history.

Two more gay legislators, Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, also addressed the swelling crowd. McCoy also promised to help the Mormon-dominated legislature understand that in the same breath you cant say you accept us and then turn around and fund a campaign to strip us of our rights in California.

The Salt Lake City Police Department closed North Temple between Main Street and West Temple to accommodate the surge of protestors, which stretched at one point around the two blocks encompassing Temple Square and the LDS churchs headquarters. While Whipples goal was to bring 1,000 people out onto the street, Salt Lake City Police Department spokeswoman Lara Jones said that particular goal had been clearly exceeded.

While noting that the police department does not and cannot do an official counts at such gatherings, Jones nevertheless said that some experienced officers had estimated the number of protestors being between 2,000 and 5,000.

Matthew Kulisch  carried a sign reading "Reply from 'The One,'" a reference to To The One, a notorious LDS pamphlet on homosexuality written by Elder Boyd K. Packer, which Kulisch called the churchs most damaging publication on the subject.

But not everyone at Temple Square was there to protest Proposition 8. A small but vocal group of counter protestors assembled on the City Creek Parks southwestern corner and near the Temples northern gate. Waving signs reading Marriage Between A Man and A Woman and Not About Equal Rights But Tradition these counter protestors exchanged heated words with Proposition 8 opponents.

You will never be a man and a woman! one woman shouted through a bullhorn.

Youre sexist, youre racist, and youre homophobic! the crowd chanted back.

Although both sides exchanged a few heated words, police kept protesters from coming to blows. And as of 7:54 p.m. Jones said police had not received any incident reports and had made no arrests.

As far as were aware this is a pretty peaceful protest, she said.

Whipple specifically planned the protest for Nov. 7 to coincide with similar protests in California. These included demonstrations at the LDS temple in Westwood and a massive protest in Los Angeles the day before. A protest in San Diego is also planned for the evening of Nov. 8

The entire article can be read here.

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