As many as 10,000 or more people are expected to turn out on Saturday, Aug. 13, for an “LGBTQ and Allies Rally for Reasonable Gun Control and Human Rights” at a park near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., according to its lead organizer.
New Jersey celebrity hairdresser and gay activist Jason Hayes said a Facebook page he created to promote the event drew more than 22,000 shares less than two weeks after he launched it. He said he decided to organize the rally shortly after the June 12 shooting rampage in Orlando, Fla., that claimed the lives of 49 mostly LGBT people of color at the gay nightclub Pulse.
“As a gay man, I know all too well how often people in our communities are targeted for violence,” Hayes said in a statement. “But these issues touch many people and other communities also struggle daily with the impact of hatred and violence. We understand that and want to stand together with anyone who feels disenfranchised and threatened,” he said.
“I believe that Americans have a reasonable right to guns, but we also ALL have a reasonable right to feel safe,” his statement says.
The rally, which is also being billed as an event to “Disarm Hate,” is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, in a section of West Potomac Park located between Independence Avenue and Ohio Drive near the FDR and Martin Luther King memorials. The site is sometimes used for polo matches.
Hayes told the Blade donations from supporters enabled organizers to arrange for a stage, a powerful loud speaker system and at least one large video screen. He said entertainers were scheduled to perform and several prominent speakers who he didn’t identify were expected to address the crowd.
A list of 58 organizations that have endorsed the rally, including the Brady Campaign To End Gun Violence and the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is posted on the rally’s website, www.disarmhate2016.com. The Shepard Foundation is one of just four LGBT groups that had signed on as endorsees as of Tuesday. The other LGBT groups include the Trevor Project, Gays Against Guns (from an undisclosed city), and the Stonewall Democratic Club.
The D.C. Chapter of Gays Against Guns voted Tuesday night to endorse the rally and encourage its members and supporters to attend, according to the chapter’s co-founder Phil Attey.