Out Against the Right: An Organizing Handbook for Queer Activists and Grassroots Organizers
For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.

Special Events

One significant part of our organizing strategy is creating anti-initiative focused events that also support and promote lesbian and gay visibility. These events include those that expose right-wing activities or strategies, those that allow individuals to speak to the media and the public about what the initiative means for their lives, and those which bring many diverse people together to enjoy themselves, donate money, and inspire others with their impressive display of community. In this section, we will discuss how to organize three types of special campaign events:
    Counter Attack
    Rallies, Concerts, Fairs
    Town Forum

These are not the only anti-initiative events a group could organize. These examples cover a range of possibilities and show how even traditional campaign events can be done creatively using a visible, grassroots strategy. You can take it from here and invent your own.

When the Bad Guys Come to Town: Organizing an Anti-Right Wing Action

     We do not believe in leaving the anti-lesbian and -gay forces alone to set the terms of the debate. In Moscow, Idaho, every time the Idaho Citizens Alliance (ICA) chairman Kelly Walton and his flunkies showed up, we were on their tails. Sometimes our goal was to overwhelmingly outnumber them and make it look like they had no support. Sometimes it was to show connections between their anti-gay agenda and other issues affecting the area, such as white-supremacist movements or union blocking. Sometimes our goal was to keep everyone aware of their activities so they would have to answer for what they did. And sometimes it was to remind the public of the bigoted intentions behind their family-oriented rhetoric.

Our Crowd Is Bigger Than Yours Is

     When a debate was organized in Moscow between the "No" and "Yes" sides of the initiative, we activated our giant phone tree, urging people to show up en masse. Then we made dramatic flyers targeted to our supporters, announcing that Kelly Walton was in town and coming to the debate, and we spent two days flyering the entire town. On the flyer, we listed the time as 6:00, although the forum didn't start until 6:30. This ensured that our supporters would fill the seats first.

     As "No" people began filing in at 6:00, we were at the doorway handing out "No on One" stickers, buttons, and support signs. By the time the forum began at 6:30, it was packed solid with hundreds of our supporters and decorated to the hilt with colorful "No on One" propaganda. Every time a speaker said something we disagreed with, the entire audience raised signs saying "No Lesbian Bashing. No on One." and "No Banned Books. No on One." The couple dozen ICA supporters who showed up had to stand in the hallway. The press covered the event extensively, commenting that it was more like a No on One rally than a debate.

Get Them the Hell Out of Dodge

     At other times, we organized direct protests of the right wing. When Kelly Walton first showed up in town, claiming he was going to "take Moscow back, we organized a street protest of 20-30 people. We carried signs and chanted on the town's Main Street, creating a very visible disturbance. Our signs and our chants accused the ICA of being antigay and racist. When we found out Kelly Walton was at a local Christian bookstore conducting a workshop, we marched to him, deliberately passing by the local newspaper office, and chanted in front of the store. This action was really exciting for people who had never done a street protest before, and it was a visible and dramatic way to show the public that Kelly Walton wasn't welcome by at least part of the town.

     When the ICA convened in the town park to distribute literature to volunteers for their townwide literature drop, we were there. Two hundred "No on One" supporters, recruited mostly from a lesbian/gay dance the night before where we handed out palm cards, stood in a semicircle around the rally. We were silent as the ICA speakers gave instructions on the lit drop. Silence can be powerful, and it definitely made for a tense rally. Our pro-queer signs not only had a dampening effect on the rally, but destroyed their plan to take a group photo of the gathering for their next newspaper ad.

To Organize a Counterattack:
  1. Have someone always keeping track of what the bad guys are doing and where they're doing it.
  2. Use phone trees and flyering to get people to the action.
  3. Have a pre-action meeting directly before the action to discuss the purpose and strategy. Will it be silent or will you chant? Will you follow them or not? Also make sure everyone knows your safety plan, and fill out support sheets.
  4. Have good visuals. The other side often doesn't; you can get the media's attention by choosing a prime location and by looking more interesting.
  5. Have a safety plan.
  6. Try not to get into direct arguments with the opposition; they go nowhere. Instead, use powerful visuals and silence or chants to demonstrate your point to the media public.

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