More than 85 people turned out Tuesday night for the kick-off meeting of a D.C. chapter of Gays Against Guns, a group founded last month in New York City by LGBT activists responding to the June 12 shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that claimed the lives of 49 people.
In a resounding voice vote, meeting participants approved a proposal by gay activists Phil Attey and Michael C. Adolph, who organized the meeting, that the new D.C. chapter should follow the lead of the New York group in staging creative and attention-grabbing “direct action” protests and sit-ins.
The two said the protests would be modeled after those conducted by the nationally recognized AIDS protest group ACT UP in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of those protests involved non-violent civil disobedience actions that resulted in arrests.
The July 26 meeting took place at the D.C. gay nightclub Town Danceboutique, which organizers said offered its space free of charge.
“We can’t just be complacent anymore,” said Attey. “When I saw Gays Against Guns emerge at New York’s Pride I really took a good look at it,” he said, adding that existing groups focusing only on lobbying for better gun control polices “aren’t doing enough.”
Attey was referring to the New York group’s participation in New York City’s LGBT Pride parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in which more than 850 people marched with the Gays Against Guns contingent.
The National Rifle Association; the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which serves as a trade association for the firearms industry; and members of Congress who do the “bidding” of the two organizations, will be among those targeted for protests by the D.C. chapter of Gays Against Guns, organizers said.
“Name, blame, and shame” will be the theme of many of the protests targeting “pro-gun” groups and lawmakers, Attey told the Washington Blade.
In a slide presentation, Adolph showed photos of a “die-in” staged by the New York Gays Against Guns group that targeted two Reebok stores in Manhattan last week. The protest was organized after news surfaced that the Cross Fit Games, an annual athletic competition sponsored by Reebok, was giving away Glock pistols to the winners of the competition.
Reebok issued a statement saying it disagreed with giving away firearms as a prize in the popular athletic competition.
The die-in, a protest action started by ACT UP, consisted of protesters lying on the ground outside a building or location targeted for the protest displaying signs saying the death was caused by improper action or “inaction” by the targeted party.
Adolph’s slide presentation included a rationale for protest actions in response to incidents like the Orlando shooting, where LGBT patrons of the Pulse nightclub made up most of the victims.
“Actions speak louder than petitions, lobbyists, prayers, thoughts, and moments of silence,” one of several “principles” adopted by the New York groups said.
“The NRA doesn’t know what’s in store for them,” Attey said in assessing the enthusiasm of those who attended the meeting and who expressed interest in participating in upcoming protests.
Organizers said the D.C. chapter is the latest among Gays Against Guns chapters that have formed in 12 U.S. cities since June.
The forming of the D.C. chapter comes one month after the founding of a D.C.-based LGBT political action committee called the PRIDE Fund to End Gun Violence. The group’s executive director, Jason Lindsay, a former congressional staffer, said the group will focus on raising money to help elect LGBT-supportive members of Congress who also support improved gun safety legislation. Lindsay said the PAC would also work to defeat those who oppose such legislation.