PROTEST VOICES GROW--The movement for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people’s rights began in the fight to save our lives from police violence.
Right here in L.A., in February 1967, that resistance flared outside the Black Cat bar in Silver Lake, after a New Year’s raid, riot, and mass arrests there by police. Again, two years later it erupted outside the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. That pitched battle against police proved so tenacious and courageous that it inspired a parade in tribute one year later. That is why the last Sunday in June remains a high holy day of the movement.
The 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas to end the sadism of sodomy laws to stigmatize and terrorize LGBTQ people stemmed from Houston police barging into a private home based on a bogus distress call. They arrested an interracial pair of gay men for no good reason but that police could get away with strong-arming and shaming LGBTQ people.
That is why police brutality, racism, and accountability for police abuse are and always have been core issues for the movement. The current nationwide nonviolent uprising against police abuse following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others—and protests in L.A. to demand demilitarization and punishment for police misuse of force against peaceful marchers, investigation of the suspicious hanging of Robert Fuller in Palmdale, and an end to senseless killings by sheriff’s deputies of Black and brown Angelenos, including young Andres Guardado—cut to our hearts as human beings. They also cut to our core priorities as LGBTQ people and allies.
We are a diverse movement more formidable than ever. In solidarity with Black Lives Matter and others rising up for police reform, an enormous megaphone is awakening America.
The bunkers of regressive policing are shaking, including in LA Bullies with badges, such as Jamie McBride and the Police Protective League, who for years ducked scrutiny by manipulating politicians with donations, find their ugliness coming into clear public view.
County sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has failed to adopt body cameras or report on deputy misconduct or abide by civilian oversight or act anything like a Democrat, continues to erode public trust and wink at lawlessness in ways reminiscent of the Trump White House.
Marchers by the thousands and people of conscience in many stations of civic authority are holding up a collective mirror to reveal unclean hands by public officials. Some of the most culpable, like Sheriff Villanueva, and least effective, like District Attorney Jackie Lacey, recoil at their own reflection. Here in L.A., they scramble to promote phony oversight. But hiding the truth, delaying accountability, and cheating the public of trust and ultimately genuine safety, seem unlikely to fool the community anymore.
The LGBTQ movement has transformative work to do, including here in L.A. We face challenges, yes. But we have more leverage and diverse strength than ever before in meeting and overcoming these challenges. We have the living lessons of struggle as fuel in the fight for freedom, safety, justice, and accountability—here and now, for an America that finally rings true for all of us and leaves none of us behind.
(Hans Johnson is president of the East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), with more than 1,000 members, the largest club in L.A. County and California. He is former board vice chair of the National LGBTQ Task Force and has advised campaigns on LGBTQ rights in more than 30 states. Hans is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)