March 25, 2011

Press release: Protest @ LGBT Center


Groups challenge LGBT Center's move to ban anti-occupation group at behest of pro-Israel funders

March 5, New York, NY – More than 130 New Yorkers gathered this evening in front of the NYC LGBT Center on W. 13th St. to protest the Center's decision to cancel tonight’s scheduled “Party to End Apartheid” and to ban one of its organizers, Siegebusters Working Group, from holding regular meetings there. The party was intended to be part of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a series of events designed to educate and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns in concordance with the just demands of Palestinian civil society.

A festive but determined mood permeated the crowd as activists chanted and members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra drummed and trumpeted. Chants included, “We’re here! We’re queer! And we support Palestine!” and “Educate! Agitate! Organize!” – a phrase that also appears in a large art installation inside the Center itself. Individuals instrumental in the cancelation of the event did not escape notice, as protestors also chanted, “Michael Lucas, we know you – spreading lies and hatred, too!” and “Glennda, Glennda, you will see! Our center will be free!”

On Tuesday, February 22, 2011, gay adult film producer and right-wing columnist Michael Lucas issued a press release threatening to boycott the LGBT Center for allowing local IAW organizers to meet and plan an event there. Lucas denounced IAW as a “hate group” and “anti-Semitic,” charges categorically rejected by event organizers Siegebusters and Existence Is Resistance (EIR), as well as other IAW organizers. Hours after Lucas issued his press release, Glennda Testone, LGBT Center director, released a two-sentence statement cancelling the event, banning Siegebusters, and saying, "We have determined that this event is not appropriate to be held at our LGBT Community Center, which is a safe haven for LGBT groups and individuals."

“I’m here tonight because bigotry and apartheid are queer issues,” said protest participant Melissa Morrone. “The Center says their mission is to provide a safe haven for the LGBT community, but by letting one donor exclude a particular point of view, they’re making queers who support Palestinian rights feel unwelcome.”

More than 1500 individuals and groups have signed a petition criticizing the Center’s decision, including queer theorist and UC Berkeley professor Judith Butler and Canadian filmmaker John Greyson. The two will be speaking this Friday, March 11, at Judson Memorial Church, at an event called “How Now BDS? Media, Politics, and Queer Activism.”

Tonight’s protest was endorsed by Siegebusters, Existence Is Resistance, Israeli Apartheid Week Coordinating Committee, Irish Queers, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Al-Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Palestinian Queers for BDS, Aswat - Palestinian Gay Women, Professor and author Sarah Schulman, Professor and author Lisa Duggan, Professor and author Judith Butler, Author Sherry Wolf, NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, Jews Say No!, Queers for Economic Justice, Audre Lorde Project, Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, International Socialist Organization, Queering the Air (New Brunswick, NJ), US Boat to Gaza, Jews Against the Occupation, and Out-FM (WBAI).

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