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Angelenos protest Trump refugee fiasco, immigration policy

After a startling week, Resistance activities take over Los Angeles

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“We are better than this!” roared the estimated 75,000 people who gathered in Downtown Los Angeles at the Families Belong Together – Freedom for Immigrants March.

The Los Angeles march, one of hundreds that took place in cities around the world, was organized, activists say, to “highlight the voices of immigrants and refugees and represent a wide and increasing show of support from Californians who reject the Trump Administration’s racism and xenophobia, and to emphasize that families belong together, not in jail.”

“We are better than this!” The words of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris emanated from the stage in front of City Hall in downtown LA and rang true in the ears of the attentive attendees.

“Right now, this is an inflection moment in the history of our country…we are better than having these detention facilities that are prisons where we house mothers who have been ripped from their children behind barbed wires. When we have over 2,000 children that right now are not with their parents because we took them from their parents, we know we are better than this,” continued Senator Harris. “Years from now, our children will look at us and ask us a question…’where were you at that inflection moment?’”

An undocumented immigrant named Melody related her own personal journey and struggles of being separated from her mother.

“I’m undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid…I can’t imagine being in a cage being judged by the color of my skin. I am here to tell Donald Trump that we will not stop until all the children, all of their parents, all of our immigrants, and all of our families are judged by the content of their character,” said Melody.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called for those in power to release detained immigrants and give them due judicial process.

“It is time for President Trump to do his job. It is time for ICE to do their job, because they are not,” he said.

Local U.S. House Representative Maxine Waters challenged those who were “…talking about censuring me, kicking me out of Congress, shooting me,” saying that she would not back down on her recent criticism of the Trump Administration.

Activist and model Chrissy Teigen spoke to the positive impacts immigrants have on America.

“Making America Great doesn’t mean building walls to keep people out, it means continuing to embrace the dreams of immigrants who add to our culture, our economy, and our humanity. Making America Great certainly doesn’t mean turning asylum seekers away, or kidnapping their kids to keep them from coming here,” Teigen said before a performance by her husband, singer/songwriter John Legend.

Others, including representatives from organizations like Black Lives Matters, Korean Resource Center of Orange County, and Mi Familia Vota, as well as California State Senator Kevin de Leon, gubernatorial front-runner Gavin Newsom, and LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, spoke on stage at the Grant Park rally and at a smaller one outside the downtown immigration holding facility after the physical march.

However, this day was really about the people.

Before the speeches had even began in Grant Park, the crowds were loud and vocal, chanting “Sí se puede,” and “Where are the kids?.”

The sea of people, clad in white in solidarity with those detained, made themselves heard whenever the speakers hit on a particularly salient point.

After the last speaker had finished at Grant Park, they took to the streets in classic protest style.

Amidst chants of “Up, up with liberation; down, down with deportation,” “Abolish ICE”, and “The people united will never be divided,” marchers made their way to the immigration holding facility on the corner of Aliso and Alameda.

They held their signs up with the determination to send their messages to the Trump Administration.

Some signs had messages like “Build bridges, not walls,” and “Humanity has no borders,” but others were more direct, like the one that read, “Fuck Trump, Abolish ICE, End Family Incarceration” and “Familia, sí! Trump, no, no, no!” and “Love cannot be stopped.”

Flags of various Latin American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, México, and Honduras, were waved proudly by their owners in the crowd.

The imagery of monarch butterflies, representative of immigrants due to the annual migration of this species to California and México, appeared everywhere from signs to shirts and even full costumes.

Protestor Denise Plazol participated in today’s march because she “does not believe that children should be put in cages, because [she believes] that the United States represents freedom, and because [she believes] that freedom belongs to all, not just white people.”

Another protestor, Lenin, specifically protested the removal of children from families by ICE, and believes that people should support each other “no matter what”, despite “different colors, different sexual orientations…always be kind to others.”

After the official event was over, the people continued to rally in their own ways. They could be found still roaming the streets of downtown, chanting and making their voices heard.

Hundreds of protestors stayed behind to confront a miniscule group of about ten counter-protestors, but did so in near-total silence as the pro-Trump spattering hurled insults at them.

Perhaps the most striking moment of the entire event, as witnessed by the Los Angeles Blade, happened around the corner from the small stage that had been set up for that second rally.

A man, presumably an immigrant who was being detained in the holding facility, was peering down at the dispersing crowds from his tiny window high above the street. He was quickly noticed, and a group of around one hundred people gathered below him, applauding and offering chants of support in both English and Spanish. More detainees soon joined him at their windows. The cries of “no están solos” by the crowd of tearful protestors was spontaneous and moving.

These people below the windows, in particular, embodied the prevailing passion and spirit of the day: that of selflessness and of standing up for those who have had their voice and human rights ripped away.

It’s a spirit not unfamiliar to LGBTQ+ people; it is the spirit that we have embodied in our continuing fight for equal rights. Many feel it is our duty as a community to help those who are oppressed, just as they offer their support for us, so when our children ask us where we were at this inflection point in American history, we can tell them that we fought for what was right.

Lauren Meister

Across town in West Hollywood, a rally organized by former Mayor and current councilwoman Lauren Meister, drew about 700 people. Among the speakers were actor and activist Rob Reiner, Current West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, Sepi Shyne, Chaz Bono, Eugene Jarecki and Michael Aguilera, District Rep for Congressman Adam Schiff and Steve Rohde.

The posters were prolific and pointed. “Impeach the Kidnapper,” read one. “Fuck Trump,” read another.

Wearing a Trump-style red hat that said “Immigrants Make America Great,” Steve Rohde reminded protestors that the immigration ban upheld by the Supreme Court was based on a law congress can overturn, urging attendees to get out the vote.  He read in it’s entirety and with great passion, Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus, moving many people in the crowd to tears.

But it was Ivy Bottini who defined the day.  “I sometimes wonder why I am still here at 92 years.  This is why…this moment is why.  We can’t be defeated.” She reminded people to know their history.  “I’ve seen chain link fences before. When I was 11 years old a baffoon rose to power and no one thought he was a threat. We are repeating that now. We have our own baffoon.”

Bottini exhorted the crowd, gathered on the last day of Pride month, to bring back ACT-UP and to tap into that energy. “We fight. We never lose,” she told the Los Angeles Blade.

The message of the day was clear: Los Angeles is city that stands in solidarity with immigrants. Angelenos do not endorse the actions of the current Administration. “We are better than this!”

This DTLA event was organized by a coalition of organizations that included MoveOn, CHIRLA, United We Dream, National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Belong Together, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Alliance Californians for Community Empowerment, ACLU of Southern California, Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Women’s March LA Foundation, Korean Resource Center, American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), FIRM, and UndocuMedia.

While there were no arrests at marches in Southern California, 575 were reported in Washington, D.C.

Troy Masters contributed the reporting and photos from West Hollywood.  All other photos by Austin Mendoza.

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Asia

Hong Kong activist dismisses calls for Gay Games boycott

WTA suspended China tournaments after tennis player disappeared

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Hong Kong Marriage Equality Co-founder Gigi Chao (Photo courtesy of OutRight Action International)

HONG KONG — An LGBTQ activist in Hong Kong on Tuesday dismissed calls to boycott the 2023 Gay Games over China’s human rights record.

“In Hong Kong, the team behind Gay Games has really worked tirelessly to bring it to Hong Kong and it will be a very good opportunity to showcase diversity and people working together and the human spirit at its best,” Gigi Chao told the Los Angeles Blade during a telephone interview from Hong Kong. “So, if it all gets rather political and if you twist the sentiments of what they want China to be, it will just really not work.”

Chao is the co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality, a group that seeks to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the former British colony. Chao also founded the Faith in Love Foundation, a group that seeks to increase awareness of LGBTQ issues in Hong Kong.  

Chao is a member of the OutRight Action International board of directors. Chao is slated to speak in the group’s annual summit that will take place virtually this week.

“All eyes are peeled on the events of next year: The Beijing Olympics, the relationship between Beijing and the U.S. as relationships either improve or sour over the course of the next 12 months and also trade and the global economic situation … it’s not a rosy picture by all means,” Chao told the Blade. “Everybody is bracing for the worst in terms of how the world recovers from COVID, but LGBTIQ rights continue.”

Chao said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident who co-chairs Gay Games Hong Kong, and his colleagues “want the Gay Games to be a celebration of the human spirit in terms of sport.”

“In Hong Kong, there’s certainly no shortage of people engaged in sport and enjoying sports,” said Chao.

Gay Games Hong Kong in September announced the postponement of the quadrennial event until 2023 because of the pandemic. The Federation of Gay Games, which oversees the Gay Games, awarded the games to Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico.

Hong Kong was a British colony until China regained control of it in 1997.

Upwards of 2 million people took part in pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong in 2019.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which, according to human rights activists, makes it easier for authorities to punish anyone who challenges the Chinese government, took effect in 2020. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is closely aligned with the Chinese government, supports the statute.

The Women’s Tennis Association last week announced the suspension of tournaments in Hong Kong and throughout China in response to the disappearance of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star, after she publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. The Biden administration on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Beijing in February.

“The Federation of Gay Games continues to monitor the situation in Hong Kong regarding COVID-19, the National Security Law and all other aspects that affect the safety and security of our event,” Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, told the Blade in a statement after the Women’s Tennis Association announced it had suspended all of its tournaments in China. “We are committed to hosting Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2023.”

Chao acknowledged Gay Games organizers are “facing a lot of opposition from all directions.” Chao also noted Hong Kong’s government is “not actually positively promoting it.”

“If we can get really high-profile athletes to participate, I think that’s going to be a huge call for everybody to participate,” said Chao.

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Iowa

Iowa State Appeal Board settles lawsuits by anti-LGBTQ religious groups

The Christian groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion

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The University of Iowa during Homecoming (Photo Credit: The University of Iowa)

DES MOINES – The Iowa State Appeal Board, made up of Iowa state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, Auditor Rob Sand and Department of Management Director Kraig Paulsen, approved disbursing nearly $2 million in state funds to settle two Federal lawsuits brought against the University of Iowa in 2017 after a religious group denied an openly gay student a leadership role. 

According to the Associated Press in a U.S. News article Monday, lawyers for the student group Business Leaders in Christ were awarded $1.37 million in fees and costs for litigating their case. A second student group, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, won their federal court case and will be paid $20,000 in damages and about $513,000 in attorney fees.

The groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

The monetary amounts were negotiated between the university and the plaintiffs in both cases and approved by a federal judge. Monday’s approval by the State Appeal Board authorizes the state to make the payments the AP reported.

In March of this past Spring, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Business Leaders in Christ after the University of Iowa had ordered group was dismantled in 2017 after claiming the student group violated its Human Rights Policy.

As reported by The Daily Iowan, Marcus Miller, a UI sophomore at the time, filed a discrimination complaint against the Business Leaders in Christ after the group  revoked a leadership position from Miller upon finding out his sexual orientation.

A new law that requires state universities and community colleges to adopt policies that prohibit them from denying benefits to a student organization based on the viewpoint of the group was implemented in 2019.

“In addition, a public institution of higher education shall not deny any benefit or privilege to a student organization based on the student organization’s requirement that the leaders of the student organization agree to and support the student organization’s beliefs, as those beliefs are interpreted and applied by the organization, and to further the student organization’s mission,” the law reads.

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New York

New state charges against man who threatened LGBTQ+ New Yorkers

Fehring is being charged with criminal mischief and grand larceny as a hate crime in the Sayville, Long Island case

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Los Angeles Blade file photo by @strekoza.nyc

RIVERHEAD, Ny. – The man arrested by FBI agents on Monday charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York for mailing letters threatening to assault, shoot, and bomb LGBTQ+ affiliated individuals, organizations, and businesses, was arrested Tuesday on state charges.

Tri-state news outlet News 12 New York reported that Robert Fehring, 74, a resident of Bayport, New York on Long Island, surrendered to Suffolk County police detectives accused of stealing almost two dozen pride flags back in July from Long Railroad Avenue in Sayville.

Eileen Tyznar has organized the LGBTQ parade for the past three years in Sayville. She saysshe lived in fear and would constantly get threatening letters. She is now relieved Fehring was arrested she told News12.

The stolen pride flags inside his home were discovered while executing the Federal search warrant, Suffolk police said.

On November 18, 2021, members of the FBI’s Civil Rights Squad and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a search warrant at Fehring’s home in Bayport, New York, and recovered photographs from a June 2021 Pride event in East Meadow, New York, two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, and a stamped envelope addressed to an LGBTQ+ affiliated attorney containing the remains of a dead bird. 

Fehring is being charged with criminal mischief and grand larceny as a hate crime in the Sayville case.

Robert Fehring, (right) with his attorney Glenn Obedin Tuesday
(Screenshot via News 12 New York)

In the Federal criminal complaint Fehring is accused of sending, according to the complaint, include one this year threatening to shoot a high-powered rifle at a Long Island Pride event in June; another warning a local Chamber of Commerce member that ambulances would be needed if the group allowed an L.G.B.T.Q. event to proceed; and a third describing a Brooklyn barbershop as a “perfect target for a bombing.”

Since at least 2013, Fehring had been sending individuals associated with the LGBTQ+ community letters in which he threatened violence, including threatening the use of firearms and explosives. 

In the criminal complaint and affidavit for arrest, federal prosecutors allege that one letter threatened that there would “be radio-cont[r]olled devices placed at numerous strategic places” at the 2021 New York City Pride March with “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk,” referencing the 2016 attack in which 49 persons were killed and dozens wounded at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

If convicted, Fehring, whom media outlets in New York identified as a retired high school teacher, band director and track coach, faces up to five years in prison.

Court records show that he sued the Suffolk County police unsuccessfully after being taken into custody in 2010 after an off-duty officer saw him hide a shotgun under a raincoat and bring it into a Long Island office building, the New York Times reported.

Gay City News editor  Matt Tracy reported that Fehring appeared in court on December 6 before Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke and was released on $100,000 bond. He is restricted to home detention with location monitoring, according to prosecutors. He is not allowed to have any firearms or “destructive devices,” is barred from contacting any of his alleged victims, and cannot go to the places he is said to have targeted.

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