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Friday, March 30, 2007

Soulforce’s Gay “Freedom Riders” Being Arrested, Prosecuted, Sent to Prison in Mississippi

posted by on March 30 at 13:45 PM

Tell me again, Rev. Hutcherson, how the gay and lesbians civil rights movement, lower case, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the African American Civil Rights Movement, upper case?

Sitting in a courtroom and facing possible jail time in Clinton, Miss. on March 22, a group of five activists in their early 20s discovered that they could pay a heavy price for their efforts to advocate for LGBT rights. The students are part of Soulforce’s second Equality Ride, in which young activists trek across the country in buses, stopping at Christian colleges and universities with anti-gay policies and trying to start a dialogue with students and administrators about embracing LGBT people and ending their discriminatory policies. Prior to reaching Mississippi the five students and their fellow riders on the eastbound bus (a separate contingent of Equality Riders are on a bus headed west) had faced few major legal consequences as a result of their work; several schools had had them arrested for trespassing, but the riders were released after either paying a fine or being told to return to court at a later date to resolve the charges. But not in Mississippi.

After administrators from Mississippi College had the five riders arrested for walking onto university property, the judge decided to bring their case to trial…. Yet the threat of jail time has not deterred the young activists. DeVries said he plans to continue participating in civil disobedience throughout the ride, crossing the property lines onto college campuses where the Equality Riders have been banned from entering, even though doing so will mean that authorities in Mississippi will issue a warrant for his arrest….

And in some cases the riders received an even worse reception from law enforcement officers than they did from school officials. Prior to arriving in Mississippi the Equality Riders were contacted by Clinton, Miss. law enforcement officials and told that they were not allowed to assemble in a large group outside of Mississippi College. Soulforce contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which in turn contacted the city and argued that those restrictions were unconstitutional. Clinton officials relented, but according to a complaint filed by Soulforce with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office police officers repeatedly harassed the bus driver and told the Equality Riders to “get out of town.”

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I think you fucked up your headline there, Dan...

Posted by the Jack | March 30, 2007 2:36 PM

Who actually went to prison?

Posted by Jeff | March 30, 2007 3:47 PM

SoulForce is consciously modeled on Ghandi and MLK. At a workshop at St Mark's some years ago, SoulForce founder Mel White talked about when he was jailed for trespassing in Virginia Beach for trying to talk with his former employer Pat Robertson about CBN's anti-gay propaganda. He said one of his first phone calls was from Coretta Scott King, who told him to stay in jail and not take a "if you get out of town we'll release you". White told Mrs King that he'd read Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Posted by JenK | March 30, 2007 3:49 PM

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