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Bomb threat disrupts Gay Men’s Chorus of LA performance

“The show must go on,” says Jonathan Weedman, Executive Director

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The moment the opening of the show was interrupted to announce the bomb threat. (Photo by Mike Pingel)

Just as the star of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles was being introduced to the crowd of more than 700 on Saturday afternoon at Glendale’s Alex Theater, the curtain began to lower and stagehands raced to push performers behind it.

A visibly confused Leslie Jordan fell silent as did the entire 300 member cast on stage.

Then this.

“Please find the nearest exit, ladies and gentleman.  Please find the nearest exit and leave the building. This is not a test, this is an actual emergency. Please leave the building calmly.”

Patrons exiting after warning. (Photo by Troy Masters)

Stunned audience members, at first unsure what to do, looked around in shock as it began to dawn on them that something had gone very wrong.

But what was it? Everyone was left to wonder.

As people calmly exited to Brand Avenue, one man said:  “Maybe someone didn’t like Jonathan’s speech about Trump and the border crisis.” An elderly woman being pushed out in her wheelchair asked, “Why are we leaving?”  There was a sense of orderly confusion.

Executive Director Jonathan Weedman told the Los Angeles Blade, “someone called in a bomb threat just before the show began, apparently, and police told us just seconds before we announced it.”

Hundreds of people streamed into the streets, awaiting word on return, but the performance was cancelled.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the theater has been evacuated,” a post on the GMCLA’s Facebook page said. “In our near 40 year history we do not believe this has happened until today. Everyone is safe. WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED.”

Milling about on the sidewalks of Brand Avenue, audience members soon realized the afternoon show would not resume. “Yeah, we’re going to have a show tonight. Come on back, bring your tickets.  We’d love for you to come,” repeated Weedman to passersby.

Many people were left speculating on what may have happened. But one man offered a story that was repeated by several people.

“We saw a very suspicious man in his late 20 come out of the theater, skinny, I would say 5’10 or 5’11” wearing a white T-shirt, black jeans.  He stood there in front of that restaurant, staring at the whole crowd then went down the street and stared again. Then security came out and he left,” said Mark Jackson, a volunteer with the chorus.

“I told the cops about this and they said, ‘No, he came from inside the theater’ but to me he looked like someone who was enjoying the chaos he created; he looked not healthy, he looked weird,” said Jackson.

Calls to Glendale Police Department have so far been unreturned.

“We will do a forensic on this and will get to the bottom of it, I can assure you,” demanded Weedman.

John Jude Duran, Mayor of West Hollywood and GMCLA’s Chairman of the Board said it was “the first bomb threat of a GMCLA event, and the first bomb threat at Alex theater.”

Leslie Jordan was undeterred.  “I am going to take my Uber home and get some rest. I’ll be back to do the next show and then again tomorrow,” he said.

And the 8:00 PM show was indeed stunning.

The 8:00 PM Show went perfectly. (Photo by Jeff Olde)

Jeff Olde, a longtime supporter of Gay Men’s Chorus, and his husband Alan Uphold said “Being forced to leave the theater only strengthened the absolute resolve of those in attendance to return for the 8pm show, and it was packed, resilient, joyful and determined. GMCLA handled it beautifully and perfectly. ‘The show must and WILL go on’ was the message. And rightly so. We will not be silenced. They put on a fantastic, wonderful show that made everyone in that room proud to be there. THIS is who we are”

“The evening was amazing. FABULOUS, a lot of fun and emotion,” said Kathryn Davis of the TransChorus of Los Angeles.

Christian Anaya, a Glendale resident said it was a heartwarming, positive connection. It was what we need right now in this day and age.

“M,” a chorus volunteer said it (Pink Carpet) brought queer history to the present beautifully.” They added,  “It was an amazingly supportive audience.”

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Right-wing extremist provocateur threatens to ‘hunt’ LGBT supporters

He has a history of right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients

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Ethan Schmidt (Screenshot/Twitter)

PHOENIX – A twenty-four year old right-wing extremist based in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area, Ethan Schmidt, posted a short video of himself accompanied by Kyle Clifton who describes himself as “authoritarian Christian nationalist,” driving in an undisclosed area announcing that he and Clifton will be “hunting ‘LGBT supporters” and people in area Target retail stores.

The video captured by Twitter account Patriot Takes, which describes itself as a group of Dedicated researchers monitoring and exposing right-wing extremism and other threats to democracy, first posted the video clip Saturday.

Schmidt has a history of making right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients.

Sunny’s Hair and Wigs, specialize in making wigs for women who have lost hair while getting treated for cancer and the store had implemented coronavirus pandemic protections including strict mask guidelines to ensure safety of their clients who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Lisa Memberr, the owner of the shop had explained to local media outlets: “My customer base is very diverse,” and she added, “Not only do I have Caucasians, I have Afro-Americans, I have Asians, I have Latin Americans.”

Schmidt, who has ban banned by nearly all social media platforms including Twitter for spreading false and misleading COVID-19 pandemic information had been visiting numerous retail stores in the Phoenix area including Sunny’s Hair and Wigs targeting those businesses that still require customers to wear mask. He invariably creates videos of his encounters which he uploads to right-wing social media and web sites that he hasn’t been banned from.

In addition to his anti-mask campaign he has made videos with extremist conservative lawmakers including one with Arizona U.S. Republican Representative Paul Gosar telling antivaxxers “to stay the course.”

He also filmed a short with Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers who has established herself firmly as an anti-vax, anti-LGBTQ, right wing extremist.

Clifton is a leader of the America First Union, an openly white nationalist, antisemitic, “conservative youth” organization. He also promotes former President Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 Presidential election being stolen by Democrats and President Joe Biden. Clifton also participated in the Arizona audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, which state Sen. Rogers, had raised the visibility of her own political profile by insisting that Arizona’s vote was stolen.

Last Fall Schmidt posed with Trump endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake as he burned a LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

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Los Angeles County

Assemblymember Santiago: Up food access to undocumented Californians

A study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity

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Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (Twitter/Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

LOS ANGELES – The sharply rising costs of food, housing, gasoline, coupled with the inflation rate hovering at 8.3%  has many Californian scrambling to supplement their access to food. The cost for food alone in the Southern California region has risen 1% from February 2022 to March 2022, and food prices were 8.8% higher than in March 2021.

Governor Gavin Newsom had previously announced in January that he intended to extend CalFresh public food assistance programs in the budget to include undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over, a move advocates including state Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who represents the 53rd District covering parts of downtown L.A. applauded as a first step in curbing food insecurity for millions of low-income Californians.

At the beginning of the month in Newsom’s revised budget the governor removed exclusions to the California Food Assistance Program for Californians 55 and older, regardless of immigration status.

Santiago, joined by the Food4All Coalition, the LA Regional Food Bank, the California Immigrant Policy Center, Gender Justice LA, and Nourish California gathered for a ‘ Food4All” rally Friday in Los Angeles to ensure that all ages are to be included in Newsom’s revised proposal.

“If you qualify for CalFresh program, you should have the ability to obtain the dollars to be able to feed your kids,” said Santiago.

Betzabel Estudillo ( Nourish California /Twitter)

Betzabel Estudillo, a senior advocate with Nourish California told the rally attendees; “This campaign has been years in the making. We appreciate the governor’s proposal, but the need is greater. Nearly half of undocumented Californians face food insecurity. It’s even worse for children – 2 out of every 3 are going hungry.”

Currently, all undocumented people are ineligible for CalFresh benefits. Only certain low-income immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, including those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those with permanent residence, may be eligible for the benefits. Immigrants who receive disability-related assistance or benefits and children under 18 years old with permanent residency are also eligible, regardless of their entry date.

Newsom’s proposals would revise those CalFresh benefits restrictions.

According to a study from the Food4All Coalition, in partnership with UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 45% of undocumented Californians face food insecurity.

“We’re pushing for a budget that includes over $500 million to be able to feed those who are the hungriest in the state of California,” said Santiago.

Newsom has until the end of June to finalize the budget.

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