JACKSON, MS -- Gay Mississippians tried to rally in Jackson this morning to draw attention to the need for equality under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents of the state, but were turned away by the police. Despite having applied for a permit for a march in the city to highlight LGBT discrimination, organizers were informed shortly before the event that their permit had been denied and they had no right to rally in the city.
The primary organizer of the march, Bob Gilchrist, had organized the event on Facebook, and was expecting a large crowd for the march. The permit was denied even though event organizers were finalizing details to secure required liability insurance. When informed by police that the permit had been denied, those assembled for the march quickly changed plans under the threat of arrest if they were to proceed.
"Mississippi is notorious for basic human rights violations," said Bob Gilchrist, the event organizer. "It's a shame that, in 2012, the state is still maintaining that reputation."
Zach Magee, a Mississippi native who helped with the organizing behind the march, said, "I can't believe the state is still maintaining a campaign of fear and intimidation to oppress state residents. Mississippians organized this march and Mississippians were going to attend this march -- if the police can't maintain safety while also permitting gay Mississippians' freedom of speech, then I don't know why they're in the business of law enforcement."
"As a Mississippian forced to flee my home state to seek equality elsewhere, this decision by the Jackson police is reprehensible," said Robin McGehee, GetEQUAL's executive director and a Jackson native. "Despite Mississippi's long history of racial, gender, and economic discrimination, the state continues to use deceptive tactics like insurance requirements to prevent people from simply walking down the street as openly gay. You would think that Mississippi would have learned its lesson and would try to shake off the chains of its discriminatory past, but this action by Jackson police will simply cement the state's reputation as the leader of bigotry and discrimination."
Event organizers partnered with an existing rally at the Capitol building this morning to get their message out, and are currently exploring ways to take action publicly in the future.
Founded in 2010, GetEQUAL is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and our allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, go to www.getequal.org, www.facebook.com/getequal, or www.twitter.com/getequal.