This footage was recorded 10/23/08 in Oakland, CA, on a public street corner near Lake Merritt.
I was on my way home from the Lakeshore district when I encountered this group of supporters of Prop 8. After turning my vidphone on, I was screamed at, physically intimidated and eventually attacked by one of the more aggressive sign-wavers.
Approx two dozen people were standing under the I-580, chanting “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and “Mom and Dad, not Dad and Dad”, etc. There were at least three counter-protesters present as well.
For several minutes prior to shooting this footage, I watched from a distance. One of the Prop 8 supporters lunged at a solitary man holding a “Vote No on Prop 8” sign. She didn’t actually touch him, but she got right up in his face, screaming. She was loud enough that you could hear her several blocks away. As far as I could see, he hadn’t provoked her in any way beyond the dissenting opinion stated on his sign. The man seemed to remain quiet and calm throughout. Witnessing this, I decided to turn on my phone’s video application and approach.
Proponents of Prop 8 have gone to great lengths to try to deny the inherent fear, anger and bigotry fueling their camp’s desire to ban gay marriage. However, these Prop 8 supporters (and many other protesters I’ve seen in recent weeks) were visibly enraged and screaming themselves hoarse in their righteous indignation over the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in the state of California.
Having documented this clash between fellow Oaklanders, I’m putting it online because I think it’s important to convey to as many people as possible –supporters and dissenters alike— just how irrational, hysterical and potentially dangerous the situation actually is. This is senseless bigotry of the saddest kind.
Something to keep in mind: when I hit the record button, I hadn’t said a single word to anyone, or interfered with the rally in any way. I stood a fair distance from all of the sign-wavers (remaining at least four feet away from all of them… until they approached me). But as soon as they noticed me filming them, I was greeted with curses and threats of violence. “Get that shit out of here. I’ll knock it out of your hand.” None of these folks knew me, yet they instantly knew they hated me.
Eventually, as you can see, some of the protesters surrounded me and began poking at me with their signs. Others, some of the most visibly angry and hysterical among them (apparently minors), hid their faces behind their banners while continuing to scream at passing traffic.
I asked the most aggressive woman (who was not underage) “are you afraid to be online?” She answered, “oh, no, they already videotaped me, but these kids don’t want to be online, cause they’re [unintelligible] loaded on a sexual perv profile and [unclear] look at my little cousins.” Fair enough. I’m all for protecting the innocent. (Not that there’s anything particularly innocent about shouting hate speech in public.)
“Go away, Nasty-Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty.”
The woman continued to poke at my face with her sign and call me “nasty.” Disturbed by the complete lack of rational behavior I’d seen up to this point, wanting to look into her face and possibly connect on some level with her as a fellow human being, I pulled a corner of the sign down away from my eyes and asked “why are you calling me nasty?”
That’s when she attacked, clawing, grabbing and then shoving. I didn’t fight back; she was much bigger than me. Calling me a “nasty fucker” and threatening to kick my ass, she pried my phone out of my hand and tried to break it in half while her friends egged her on.
Please note that I never touched or threatened her in any way (unless you want to consider my pulling the edge of her sign out of eye-poking territory a threatening gesture).
As she grabbed at my phone, I stood there stunned, not really sure what to do. One of the counter-protesters (the woman who you see saying “No on Prop 8” towards the beginning of this clip) quickly intervened and calmed the attacking woman down enough that I felt safe enough to try to take my phone back. After a second or two of grappling, she let go and went back to screaming at cars from a lawn chair near the side of the road.
(Big love and gratitude to the kindly counter-protester who pleaded for calm. I don’t think my phone would have survived without you!)
I stood there for another minute or two, checking the phone’s applications for damage. One of the other sign-wavers, a teenage boy standing nearby, leaned over and whispered “fuck you, dyke.”
Even though I wasn’t hurt besides a small scratch on my hand, and my phone was okay, being attacked definitely shook me up. I was a bit tearful. Call me naive, but I never thought I’d actually be in physical danger just for shooting footage of their activity and pulling the edge of a person’s sign out of my eyes. Verbal insults, sure. But attacked by an anti-gay activist? In one of the most queer-friendly neighborhoods in the bay area? Yikes.
The man holding the “Vote No” sign noticed that I was in tears and approached me. We hugged to a chorus of jeers, exchanged some reassuring words, and I turned to leave. Someone called after me: “keep crying, and keep walking.”
And that’s exactly what I did.
I’m voting no on Prop 8. I’ll take love over hate any day.