Efforts begin in Chicago for ‘worldwide’ LGBT march

People gathered at a rally preceding the Proposition 8 march at Federal Plaza, Nov. 15, 2008. Photo: Tony Merevick.

A team of activists are uniting in Chicago to stage an LGBT civil rights demonstration as part of a massive-scale plan to have simultaneous marches around the world April 21.

Chicago is one of several major cities, including New York, Washington D.C., Portland and Atlanta that were announced to participate in the 2012 Worldwide Civil Rights March, according to a report by the Washington Blade.

Noa Francis Shayden, who heads up the Chicago effort, told Chicago Phoenix that ze (preferred pronoun) is in the early stages of planning the march here, such as dealing with the city’s changes to protest rules and ordinances.

“Apparently here in Chicago, thanks to our wonderful mayor Rahm Emanuel, there may be changes made to regulations for marches, protests, and other similar events enacted as soon as Jan. 18,” Shayden said.

New limitations for protests and demonstrations were recently proposed in anticipation of the G8 and NATO summits, which will take place at McCormick Place in May. It will be the first time in 35 years that the groups, comprising leaders from the world’s major powers, will meet at the same time in the same city. The last was in London in 1977.

The mayor’s proposed measures will force protest organizers to have a “marshal” for every 100 participants and will allow police to fine demonstrators up to $1,000 for violating the city’s rules on public gatherings. The fines for resisting police officers will also be increased.

Initially, Emanuel told the Chicago City Council that the measures would be temporary, but said last week that he plans for them to remain in place after the summits.

“I’m waiting to see how this plays out to know what permits may be needed to ensure this march can happen without incidents with the city,” Shayden said.

So far, Shayden plans to hold the march downtown because of how accessible it is for people to attend, and has a few possible routes in mind. Recent large-scale LGBT protests in the Loop have gone mostly unimpeded by police, such as the Proposition 8 protest in 2008 and the Harvey Milk Day march in 2010.

Local LGBT rights groups, The Civil Rights Agenda and LGBT Change, have joined to plan the march, according to TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez, who is on the local planning committee.

“Any effort to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ individuals should be supported, and the community should step up as well,” said Martinez. “It is exciting to help advance efforts that foster inclusion and equality, even within our community.”

The 2012 Worldwide Civil Rights March is led by Joe Knudson, an Oklahoma City-based activist. Knudson approached Phil Attey, an activist out of Washington D.C. who has used Facebook to organize other rallies and demonstrations, last year, according to the Blade. Over 1,300 people have joined the Facebook event page.

Organizers say the global action is meant to unify people all around the world as one force for civil rights.

“This is an event that everyone needs to put aside all differences and come together as one unified LGBT Community, along with our straight allies, as this event will definitely drive home the point worldwide that the LGBT are poised to demand and acquire our full civil rights that all other sectors of society enjoy, as well as live within the same laws and guarantees enjoyed by all other citizens, including marriage equality,” said the organizers in a preliminary press release.

“The Chicago march shares the same goal, though I personally would like for there to be more visibility from the rest of the LGBTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, and pansexual) family,” Shayden said. “Most groups tend to focus on the L, G, B, and T (even though the T is often overlooked) and forget that there are more than just those three or four identities that are also marginalized and oppressed.”