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Hundreds protest theater's support of Prop. 8

By: Lara Takenaga - The Daily Northwestern - LINK

Posted: 11/24/08

Century Theater Prop 8 protest in Evanston, IL.

Media Credit: Lara Takenaga

"No dollars for hate!"

That's what protesters chanted as they marched up and down the street outside Century Theatres, 1715 Maple Ave., on Saturday night. Armed with pride flags, picket signs and banners, about 400 people came to protest a $9,999 donation that Cinemark CEO Alan Stock made to the Yes on 8 campaign.

"If you're going to target our community with hate, whether it's Prop. 8 or any other measure going forward, it's no longer going to be without consequences," said Andy Thayer, Weinberg '85, the co-founder of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network. "We are going to hit you in the pocketbook just the way you hit us in terms of our rights."

The Gay Liberation Network began planning a response to Stock's donation on Nov. 15 during the Chicago rally against California's Proposition 8, a measure that bans same-sex marriage.

"This is a local protest that should keep the pot stirring until we have the next national day of protest," Thayer said.

Cinemark Theatres, an international corporation that includes Century Theatres and CinéArts, is the third-largest movie chain in the country. Managers of Evanston's theater said they could not comment on the protest, and calls to Cinemark corporate offices were not returned.

Several volunteers made it a point to inform passersby about the exact amount Stock donated.

"Instead of donating $10,000, he donated $9,999," Harold Washington College sophomore Eric McNally said, adding that he thought he knew the reason for donating that specific amount. "He did that so he'd be just shy of the line for the top donators, so that way no one would find out about it, and no one would do what we're doing tonight."

Century Theatres notified Evanston police in advance of the protest, Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington said.

"It's America; everybody can do this, so it's not a problem," Eddington said. "Other than making sure everybody can get by, it's not really a significant police issue."

So many people flooded the sidewalk that two groups formed at different ends of the street. Some protestors carried signs that said "Cost of Admission: Civil Rights" and "We Will Not Finance Our Own Oppression." Others blew whistles in between chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the CEO has got to go" and "Gay, straight, black, white, marriage is a civil right."

In addition to chanting and marching, protesters handed out sheets listing other show times and movie theater locations in the Chicago area.

"It's nice that they have the flyer with all the options and other places you can go," Edgewater resident Ann McCallister said. "I've been patronizing this theater for years, and I had no idea. This protest has definitely affected my decision about where I'm going to see movies."

McCallister also noticed that the usual Saturday night lines and crowds did not form inside the theater.

"For the first show in the evening, I usually see a lot more people here," she said.

While the protest may have influenced some people to turn away, moviegoers continued walking through the theater's doors.

"They're just exercising their First Amendment rights," Evanston resident Gabby Tulbure said. "As far as what the owner's doing, I think that's his choice, so it doesn't affect me. I want to see a movie."

While members and allies of the gay community see the passage of Proposition 8 as a major blow, they also see it as a way of revitalizing the community.

"I think people got complacent beforehand," said Rebecca Sitter, a Weinberg senior and Northwestern Rainbow Alliance member. "But now the same people are realizing how important it is to still be vocal and still fight about things that really matter to you."



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