Braving the cold, blocking traffic and chanting pro-gay slogans, a crowd of about 300 came out for the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network's third annual March Against Anti-Gay Hate last Saturday.
The march and rally, held at the same time each year, on or near the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, stepped off from Halsted and Roscoe. Organizers said this year's march was about the same size as last year's, with between 300 and 400 people.
The influence of the Sept. 11 attacks could be felt throughout the event, with changes both obvious and subtle.
Anti-war pamphlets circulated through the crowd, including a two-page statement from CABN on why it opposes "this war."
"This march has always been about more than one man in Wyoming," said CABN co-founder Andy Thayer. "This march is also about more than the violent acts that we all have been repulsed by."
Ali Abunimah, vice president of the Arab American Action Network, served as this year's keynote speaker, thanking the GLBT community for its support.
The attacks have brought both a backlash against Arabs and Muslims and "a very powerful counter-backlash," Abunimah said. "LGBT people were at the forefront of countering this backlash."
"Let's make a pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all, and let's be here for each other," he added.
Other speakers and guests included several victims of recent anti-gay crimes, including Kentin Waits, Ifti Nasim, Kim Dorband and Jeffrey Lyons.
Waits and Lyons have accused Chicago police officers of anti-gay attacks, Nasim was threatened earlier this year as he sat in a restaurant, and Dorband was lesbian-bashed by a CTA bus passenger this summer ( while the bus driver watched and would not call for help ) .
Nasim, co-founder of the South Asian GLBT group SANGAT, told WCT he came to the march for several reasons, not just because he is the victim of a recent anti-gay attack.
"I came to raise awareness that we are not monsters," he said, speaking of Muslims. "I took refuge in this country because of violence. ... Now I am facing it here as a Muslim person.
"I feel like I'm walking in a minefield," he said, adding that two older people recently yelled at him, "Go back to your country, motherfucker," while he was shopping.
As the march stepped off, subtle changes were made to old, oft-heard protest chants. Instead of "Gay, straight, black white/ One struggle, one fight!" one chant became "Gay, straight, Arab, white..."
Pro-Arab and anti-war signs also dotted the crowd. "Instead of a call for war, there should be a call for Gore/Lieberman," quipped marcher Julia Heath.
Despite the inclement weather, at least one participant felt that the crowd should have been larger.
"Actually, I'm very disappointed with the turnout, especially since we're in the heart of Boystown," said marcher LaTonya Wilkins. "We've got an OK turnout, and the people here seem very committed to the issue."
Marchers headed south on Halsted to Belmont, east to Broadway and north to Brompton. At Broadway and Brompton, CABN member Bob Schwartz stopped the crowd to unveil the group's new initiative targeting the Salvation Army.
The initiative is aimed at putting "a dent in the bottom line of the Salvation Army," Schwartz said.
CABN members distributed green slips of paper that it urged the crowd to put into Salvation Army kettles this Christmas season.
The notes thank the organization for the work it does for the poor, but takes it to task for its anti-gay stances.
"Because of your homophobic policies, I am bypassing your Red Kettles this season and will be giving my charitable contributions to organizations friendly to the gay and lesbian community," the notes read.
The march then headed west to Halsted and south back to Roscoe.
Other speakers and performers included singer Scott Free, Robert Schultz of Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays and Amnesty International, and Donna Blaha of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.