Just before noon, about 100 people chanting gay-rights slogans began marching from Capitol Hill to a rally at Westlake Center. At the front of the procession, two men carried a sign—fashioned from a sheet and adhered to two sticks with black tape—spray painted with the sponsor organization’s name: “Queer Ally Coalition.” Another banner for the International Socialist Organization followed in the rear.
It was part of a national day of action in 100 cities, organized by Jointheimpact.com, to protest the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The goal, according to a mass email, was to gather 1,000,000 petition signatures asking Barack Obama to repeal DOMA and show him "how vast our numbers actually are." Here's a picture of the entire march:
Eli Steffen, a member of QAC, said he was “excited for the turnout” and thinks 200 people at the event signed the petition.
“It is fewer people than I would have anticipated,” said Travis McBurney, who runs a wedding-planning company with his with his partner, Jesse Brix.
If the anti-Prop 8 protests in November marked the gay-rights movement’s resurgence—drawing roughly 10,000 people into the streets of Seattle—the march today looked like the movement’s rapid fall. What happened to the other 9,900 supporters? And where were the folks behind November’s successful march, such as Kyler Powell, and Equal Rights Washington?
“Equal Rights Washington didn’t play much of a role,” says Powell, currently an event consultant for ERW, who was at the rally to speak. And he believes the march coordinated by QAC wasn’t beneficial. “The last thing we need are more organizations,” he says. “It shows division within the community.”
But considering this is a national day of action, some group is bound to organize a march. If ERW wants the event to be a success—or even avoid a spectacular embarrassment—then ERW needs to plan it, or provide the resources to make sure it’s not a flop. Likewise, the national organizer, Jointheimpact.com, needs to make sure the groups that volunteer to produce a protest know how to make the event a success. The function of a march and rally is to demonstrate the movement’s gravity in numbers. That requires excellent promotion, credible speakers, banners with a clear message—and the wisdom to not hold an event if you can't draw a big crowd.
“We decided to let every organization have a voice,” says Amy Balliett, founder of Jointheimpact.com. “Queer Ally Coalition wanted to plan this.” While allowing upstart activists to try their hand at organizing is valuable—it’s how movements get new leaders—those new organizations need guidance. ERW, Jointheimpact.com, and other leaders in Seattle’s gay-rights community need to direct this movement. Ragtag events, where the greatest presence is the International Socialist Organization (a parasitic group that shows up at every damn event to sell sanctimonious books), will cause the resurging gay-rights movement to atrophy and die—at least in the public eye.