June 22, 2011

QFOLC Tells Garden Partiers: Stop Censoring Viewpoints of Groups that Meet at Center

Patrons of the LGBT “Community” Center’s Garden Party at Pier 54 on Monday evening, June 20, were greeted by an informational picket urging them to tell Center board members that their policy of censorship and exclusion is unacceptable. About 45 members of QFOLC, QAIA and their supporters joined the picket.

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!

2 comments:

  1. The other *really* outrageous thing Palumbo said (once away from the tape recorders) was that "Palestinians meet every day at the Center" and the ban on SB and QAIA is intended to protect them from controversy as they come to the Center. Aside from being a patent load of bullshit, it's patronizing at best -- and disingenuous and abusive at worst -- for the Center's board to take cover behind some Palestinian queers who, known only to the Center, support the Center's censorship.

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  2. "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."

    Is Larry Kramer unaware of what's going on at The Center. He walked right past a couple of us handing out leaflets, checked us out for two seconds and then skidadled into The Garden Party.

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About Queers for an Open LGBT Center