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Proposition 8 Demonstration Turns Ugly

24 October 2008 One Comment

By Casey Miner  A rally in support of Proposition 8, the ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage in California, turned ugly as supporters of the measure taunted passersby and counter-demonstrators near Lake Merritt in Oakland.

The demonstrators yelled slurs like “faggot,” according to several people who said they were harassed. Some said they were pushed, poked, and hit with signs by aggressive demonstrators.

“They said, ‘You’re a sick fag,'” said Oakland resident Anthony Lecours, 46, who held a sign opposing Proposition 8. Lecours said he was poked repeatedly and that one demonstrator told him he had AIDS.

“They were telling me I wish I had a penis,” said Julie Harris, another resident of Oakland who was holding a sign opposing Proposition 8 across the street from the main demonstration. “[They said] that I was angry a man left me, stuff like that.”

Harris also said a demonstrator pushed and elbowed her.

On Friday, police department spokesman Jeff Thomason said one demonstrator was cited for battery.

The demonstration drew between 30 and 40 people to the intersection of Lakeshore Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, as the sun set Thursday. Over several hours, between three and six Oakland police officers monitored the scene. Drivers passing by honked and pointed toward the side they supported.

Asked about the allegations of harassment, Officer Chris Keden said that several people had complained to him about the slurs, but that he personally had not heard anyone use them.

Proposition 8 supporter Benjamin Finau, 27, was holding a sign and yelling to passing cars.

“Gay and lesbian marriage, and just being gay, too, that’s not good,” he said. “I see it as a spiritual battle between good and evil, and we’re on the good side.”

His view appears to conflict with the stated position of the sponsors of Proposition 8, who say on their Web site that the measure is not an attack on gay couples or homosexuality but rather a reaffirmation of heterosexual marriage.

The measure’s sponsors have repeated this stance in television advertisements and media interviews. In recent days, however, witnesses have reported numerous instances of abusive language and physical intimidation at Yes-on-8 demonstrations throughout Oakland.

The Protect Marriage campaign, which is sponsoring Proposition 8, declined to comment for this story.

Finau said he and many of the other demonstrators are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Protect Marriage campaign estimates that 40 percent of its donations have come from members of the LDS church; Californians Against Hate, a group opposing Proposition 8, puts the amount at 80 percent.

A spokesman for the Oakland Temple, a local LDS branch, said the church does not take political positions.

“Individuals can do what their conscience dictates,” he said. “I’d be disappointed that church members were using anything but good language.”

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