Hundreds rally in San Jose
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A rainbow of supporters demanded equal rights during last weekend's march in San Jose that coincided with the national Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., and numerous other satellite protests around the country.
People's spirits were high as they waived their rainbow flags and signs, chanting in English and Spanish: "What do we want? Equality," "What do we want? Diversity," "No hate, No fear, everyone is welcome here," through the heart of the South Bay city.
March and rally organizers estimated the June 11 crowd to be upward of 800 attendees, but the Bay Area Reporter and Mercury News estimated the crowd to be around 300.
The San Jose Police Department didn't respond to a request to confirm attendance numbers.
Some older gay activists expressed disappointment in the numbers that were a mere shadow of the turnout for the Women's March earlier this year, they said.
Despite the low attendance, the diverse crowd included young, old, queer and straight, a variety of ethnicities, citizens and immigrants, and many San Jose natives.
No counterprotests against the LGBT march occurred.
The marchers, who started out at City Hall, were greeted at Cesar E. Chavez Plaza by elected officials and community leaders who spoke in support of the LGBT community.
"This march is very important because it sends a very strong message along with the rest of the LGBT groups around the country that we just can't be silenced and pushed aside," Thaddeus Campbell, 61, chairman and president of Silicon Valley Pride, said at the rally. "Now it's even more important that we get our voices out and get our voices heard."
The overarching theme of the day from speakers was to resist political and physical attacks on the community, particularly trans people; donate money and volunteer time to organizations and political campaigns; write letters to elected officials; and run for public office.
San Jose Democratic Congress members Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo were on hand, as was San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. They talked about what they were doing to protect LGBT rights at the federal and local level.
History and remembrance
Sunday was also a day for remembrance and a queer history lesson for younger activists who participated. Many of the teenagers and 20-something activists grew up during a period of tremendous gains for LGBT rights under former President Barack Obama. They hadn't experienced the long hard-fought battles before those rights were secured.
It was also a somber afternoon, coming a day before the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Forty-nine mostly gay Latino men were killed by Omar Mateen during the rampage, and another 53 were injured.
"Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Orlando where 49 precious lives were gunned down," Eshoo told the crowd. "I know today that we honor them and we hold their memories in our hearts.
"I think that they would be prideful about what we are doing today, but they would also instruct us that we have a lot more work to do," she added. "Together, we are going to prevail because in the United States of America there's only one class of citizenship: first class, equality for everyone."
Gay Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager kicked off the rally at the plaza.
"I have fought long and hard for LGBT rights as county supervisor, a San Jose City council member, as a school board member, as well as the co-founder of an organization of LGBT politics called BAYMEC," Yeager said.
Yeager, along with other speakers, took jabs at the president.
"President Donald Trump claimed that he was better for the gay community than Hillary Clinton," he said, pointing out he has ignored Pride Month and his administration has taken steps to remove LGBT content from government websites. "However, we know that claim was worth about as much as one of his degrees from Trump University.
"This is not fake news," said Yeager, using one of Trump's favorite attacks on the media. "This is reality. We won't be erased."
Yeager and other elected officials spoke about the county's accomplishments protecting and supporting the LGBT community, including opening the nation's first countywide Office of LGBTQ Affairs, flying the rainbow and trans flags, and suing the Trump administration for its "hateful" policies.
The politicians pledged to continue to support the LGBT community.
"We are strong. We are proud. We will not go backward, only forward," Yeager said. "Which way are we heading?"
"Forward," the crowd responded.
State Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) pointed out that California is the sixth largest economy in the world because of its values.
"We succeed because we are dreamers, not dividers," he said. "We succeed because we lead from the heart, not from a position of strength. We succeed because we double down in lifting people up, not pulling them down."
Community activists responded to the call to run for political office.
Shay Franco-Clausen announced that she planned to run as the first out queer woman of color for a seat on San Jose's City Council at the pre-rally outside of City Hall.
Rodrigo Garcia, who said he's a gay Mexican undocumented immigrant, called upon the audience to make their creed "resistance."
"The propaganda that the government of Trump is promoting is one of fear," he said. "The president is an exhibitionist. His desire for security makes him remind his followers I am the master. His nation is a hostile nation.
"Let's resist the ills of our society that continue to dictate the shameful chapter of our history, by making ourselves visible in unity and pride," Garcia added.
Danielle Castro, a transgender activist and project director at the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF, agreed.
"We are in a critical time in this country where we have to stand together," Castro, a San Jose native, told the crowd.
She called for transgender women of color to speak up for their rights and for LGB community leaders to support transgender community leaders.
Those who attended said the march was important.
"It's really important to me," said Parson Andrews, 17, who came out as gay to his family and friends just last week.
Andrews, who was at the march with his friends, expressed interest in political office.
Darryl Remulla, 16, identified himself as a cisgender straight male and one of Andrews' friends. He said that he attended the rally in support of Andrews and expressed the importance of straight allies.
"It's important for the LGBT community to have supporters that are straight," said Remulla. "This is a movement that everybody could and should get behind. It's very important to show that we have a voice and that we are not going to stop until we have rights for everybody."
What has happened in the White House has affected his family, he told the B.A.R. His brother is gay and married. His family doesn't know what is going to happen to his brother and his husband or his friends who are queer under Trump's administration.
"It's kind of scary because my brother is gay," said Remulla. "We are not sure what's going to happen to him."
David Campos, a gay man who is a deputy Santa Clara County executive and former San Francisco supervisor, was pleased to see so many groups come together in support of the LGBT community.
"It was very important. It was very inspiring. It shows that there is a movement that is taking place," Campos said at the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee's after-rally mixer.
"What you saw was not just members of the LGBTQ community, but members of other communities that are not necessarily queer coming out and saying you know we are going to be united, we are going to work together, and if you come after the LGBT community then you are coming after all of us," said Campos.
Yeager said the day was a success.
"I am optimistic, but I know we have to keep on being as vigilant as possible," he said at the BAYMEC mixer.
San Francisco Pride community grand marshal and drag king Alex U. Inn agreed, which is why they invited everyone to join them in their "Resistance" contingent behind Dykes on Bikes at the San Francisco Pride parade June 25.
For more information about the San Francisco "Resist" contingent, contact Inn at firstname.lastname@example.org.