June 22, 2011
QFOLC Tells Garden Partiers: Stop Censoring Viewpoints of Groups that Meet at Center
Board chair Mario Palumbo briefly stopped to speak with us, but reiterated his refusal to have a meeting between QFOLC and the board, which is one of our demands. Palumbo kept parroting what are now the Center’s talking points on the controversy: that LGBT people who are concerned with Palestinian rights are a “distraction” from the mission of the Center. He said that there is nothing to talk about and walked away when he realized that a member of the press was recording him. Stonewalled again. Palumbo took special exception to our references to “OUR Community Center.” I guess it belongs to the funders on the board now.
There were many people going into the Garden Party who were either unfamiliar with the controversy, so our signs and leaflets and discussions brought them up to date. Many expressed support for our demands: reinstatement of Siegebusters and QAIA at the Center, open board meetings, and free speech at the Center. There were a few patrons who expressed open hostility to our cause, but many others promised to raise the issue with Center leaders.
We were also told that there is a lot of support for the cause of an open Center from the Center’s own staff, but they are being stopped by the administration from speaking out publicly.
There seems to be some reluctance on the part of the leaders of other LGBT and AIDS groups to confront the Center about its censorship. Part of our work in the coming weeks is to build support from these leaders and the grassroots in our community.
I talked with at least one longtime supporter of the Center who thought this was one of the dullest Garden Parties ever and he left early. We have no idea if the crowd was diminished by this controversy. Many of us on the picket line have been patrons of the Party in the past. We do not wish our community Center ill. We are trying to save it from people who do not respect its rich heritage as a vibrant place of community organizing that welcomes all viewpoints.
The Center as it is now would probably not welcome ACT UP which in its heyday caused enormous controversy, taking on the mayor and religious bigots like Cardinal O’Connor in ways that made international headlines. In the case of Siegebusters and QAIA, Center leaders panicked because of a couple of stories in the Jerusalem Post and Gay City News and because of the protests of a handful of wealthy donors. This is no way to run a “Community” Center.
QFOLC Will Picket the Center on July 6 at 6 PM
Our next informational picket will be at the Center itself on Wednesday, July 6 from 6-8 PM where we hope to build support for an open Center from the people who use the Center regularly. This was the time that the Center had scheduled a meeting for QAIA before withdrawing their approval and declaring that Israeli-Palestinian issues may not be discussed on the premises of the Center!