by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Tens of thousands of activists gathered in Washington, D.C. on October 2 for what one organizer called an 'antidote to the Tea Party.'
Called 'One Nation Working Together,' the rally was initiated by the NAACP at its July national convention. Labor groups including the AFL-CIO and SEIU soon joined with other progressive organizations to support the NAACP's call.
'Demand the changes we voted for' was the theme of the event, with specific demands including 'good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education for all.'
Organized labor provided many of the resources for the rally, including charter buses bringing union members to the rally from locations all over the eastern part of the country.
Preliminary satellite estimates put the crowd size at 175,000 to 200,000.
NAACP President Ben Jealous told MSNBC before the event that he hoped it would be 'an antidote to the Tea Party.'
'This march was inclusive,' Jealous told reporters afterwards. 'We have seen cabdrivers come down from New York, truck drivers from Oklahoma. This is about moving the country with the spirit of unity and hope, and getting the country beyond the divisiveness.'
Ed Schultz, host of MSNBC's The Ed Show, served as one of the emcees for the event. Schultz harshly criticized the Tea Party.
'They talk about the Constitution, but they don't want to live by it,' he said to loud applause. 'They talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country.'
Support rallies were also organized in a number of other cities.
In Seattle, about 500 people rallied at the Federal Building in support of the D.C. rally. Seattle's rally was endorsed by the NAACP, Urban League, several SEIU locals, and Pride At Work, among other organizations.
Pride At Work is an LGBT labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The group had been asked by One Nation organizers to convene what was called the 'LGBT Table' - a coalition of LGBT organizations who agreed to mobilize their members to support the goals of the rally.
have leading role
Pride At Work, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the Human Rights Campaign were among more than 40 LGBT organizations that endorsed the One Nation event.
A large contingent of LGBT leaders and activists from these groups joined the One Nation rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
More than 200 LGBT activists held their own pre-rally at Freedom Plaza, where they were joined by participants completing the D.C. AIDS Walk.
From Freedom Plaza, the LGBT contingent marched to the Lincoln Memorial carrying signs and banners promoting repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell' and passage of ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) to ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The National Black Justice Coalition, NGLTF, National Stonewall Democrats, and Pride at Work also sponsored a forum on October 1 at Howard University, advocating for a national 'LGBTQ inclusive social justice agenda.'
Among those attending the One Nation rally was Lt. Dan Choi.
Choi carried a sign addressing LGBT teen suicide. Ongoing discrimination was responsible for the recent rash of suicides among Gay male teenagers, he told reporters.
Christine Quinn, the Lesbian speaker of New York City Council, said she was among several thousand New Yorkers attending the event.
'I just wanted to make sure my voice was added to the others today calling for a national discussion that isn't so divisive, isn't so full of hate and nasty rhetoric but one that is instead about what we needed right now - jobs, improved public education, fuller civil rights and equal rights for everyone,' she said.
'I came out to support the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender communities,' one man told Italian reporters. 'We want to have equality for the right to marry across this United States. No one should have to suffer and hide in this country, because of whom they choose to build a life with.'
LGBT organizers seek
unity with other groups
One of the challenges for LGBT organizers was to build a working relationship with socially conservative African American clergy.
Darlene Nipper, the deputy executive director of NGLTF faced the issue head-on in her speech from the Lincoln Memorial steps.
'I stand here before you today as a proud openly Lesbian African-American woman,' Nipper said.
'I am not either black or Lesbian. I am both and much more,' she continued. 'And like you, I seek justice for all of us. In America, justice means equal rights for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation, or ability.'
In her five-minute speech, Nipper joined most of the more than two-dozen speakers in sounding a theme of unity among all progressive groups and constituencies.
'We can no longer work in silos, whether by campaign, issue or community,' said GregoryMCendana, a Gay official with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, who also addressed the rally from the memorial steps.
'There needs to be an understanding that the fight and struggle for economic justice and workers rights is the same fight and struggle for LGBT equality,' he said. 'And for civil and human rights, it's the same as the fight for immigrant justice. And access to equality and education is the same fight for the environment and green jobs.'
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, appeared on the speakers' platform with a group of labor, environmental and education advocates, who recited broad themes of unity for a progressive agenda.
'The whole point is we're all in this together,' she told Washington Blade reporters after the rally.
Openly Lesbian SEIU president Mary Kay Henry - sometimes called 'the most powerful Lesbian in the country' - also spoke at the rally.
'October 2nd is about November 2nd,' she said, urging workers to send a message to Congress.
'Corporations are preying on our fears and using this moment to expand their profit margins,' Henry added. 'This is the first recession where corporate margins are growing while wages are going down. We're saying, 'No more.' Openly Lesbian AFT (American Federation of Teachers) president Randi Weingarten spoke, as well.
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