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Thousands gather, march in Chicago Prop. 8 protest

November 15, 2008


Crowds gathered in Federal Plaza in protest of Proposition 8.

Crowds gathered in Federal Plaza in protest of Proposition 8.

(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday afternoon in protest of Proposition 8—a constitutional amendment that overturned the right for gays to marry in California on Nov. 4.

The crowd gathered in Chicago’s Federal Plaza just after noon, holding signs that read “Erase the H8” and “We are not second class citizens.” Soon, the crowd grew from a few hundred to more than 2,000 and began marching in the streets.

From Federal Plaza, the protesters marched in the streets—among police on bicycle and horseback—to City Hall, the Thompson Center and ultimately on to Michigan Avenue.

“People marched because they are sick and tired of their rights being disrespected,” said Andy Thayer, a speaker at the protest and a co-founder of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network.

“We know that a mass movement of gay people can secure our equal rights,” he said.

The crowd, a mix of young and old, gay and straight, black and white, was peaceful—police said no arrests were made throughout the nearly four hour event.

Thayer was hit with a ticket at the end of the protest for failure to secure a parade permit—a small price to pay, he said. “If [this protest] is a step on the path to winning equal rights, you betcha it’s worth it.”

Libertyville native Jake Bersie, 18, and his dad, Dave Bersie, 55, came to the protest to support the cause. “I’m not gay, but my friend is,” Jake said. “I came to support her.” He brought his dad along.

Dave Bersie said the gay movement has come a long way since he was younger, but there is still work to do.

“People should be able to do what they want,” he said. “I support freedom.”

St. Louis native Kelsey Risman, 20, drove to Chicago Friday night, and slept in her car. She planned on doing the same Saturday.

St. Louis also had an anti-Proposition 8 protest Saturday, but Risman said it would not have been as big as the Chicago event.

“It’s not as tolerated there,” Risman said. “Things are changing, but there is a lot of work to do.” Risman said police attempted to block the crowd from marching on Michigan Avenue—but failed.

“We took over and broke through the bikes and barricades,” she said, comparing the march to 1960s-style protest. “I’ve never seen this. It’s insanity.”

While the crowds marched to protest California’s law being overturned, some called for Chicago politicians to “stop with the lip service.”

“Chicago politicians are allegedly gay friendly,” Thayer said. “We’ve gotten a lot of talk over the years but they act like they can’t do anything about [gays being prohibited from marrying.]”

The protest was organized online in just 7 days, Thayer said. A group called Join the Impact called on community members in more than 100 cities to organize and come together for Saturday's protest.

As the protest drew to a close after 4 p.m., a smaller group gathered in Federal Plaza and shouted: "We need to love who we love, the way we love."


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