Now, you all are probably aware that I'm a crazy pacifist and protested the war in Iraq, but this was about more than that; this was just a case study of discrimination against gays. Sure, I'd never serve, even as a non-com, but I support my fellow citizens' right to serve, no matter hir sexual orientation. The reporters I talked to loved that one, let me tell you.
The protest started with a press conference with Alex and Mandy, the two girls trying to enlist; Chance, Mandy's partner who accepted medical discharge from the military to escape a dishonorable one for being lesbian; the local Soulforce leader; and Will Cobb, a discharged member of the Coast Guard who is running for Ward 6 in the District. Good conference; the Soulforce guy talked too much, but Cobb was really supportive without making it into a campaigne platform and Alex, Mandy, and Chance were great. Then Alex and Mandy tried to go into the office and enlist, for the Coast Guard and Navy, respectively. And they didn't even unlock the office.
So, the sit-in began. There were about 20 of us at the peak; half sat in the recruitment office's lobby (the office itself opened, the Navy office never did), the other half sat on the sidewalk outside, and a few of us handed out flyers. I spent most of the day chasing people down the sidewalk, talking to them and forcing flyers on them. I probably passed out 250 alone.
When one is handing out flyers, there are three kinds of people: the ones that don't even look at you, as if that will make you go away; the ones that say "I'm busy" and keep walking; and the ones that listen (whether they support you or not). The first two are lost causes, but the third are more common than you think. A surprising number of people were supportive, and only two actually supported the policy (one of them spouted nonsense at me in defense of the policy, which was amusing). We got a some people thinking, and support from both some of the servicement and women inside the center and walking by in the street.
(Incidentally, the protest was on CNN tonight at about 8:40. They showed an eensy bit of footage from the protest, and then the interviewed Alex and two others from other protest locations live. Due to the way they cut the footage, I was on screen for ten seconds sitting on the floor in the recruitment station with the rest of the group looking intense and frizzy.)
All in all, it was a good protest. The red army invaded while I was protesting, so I had to run to a CVS, and I've got no voice after talking all day, but I feel like I made a difference. They're doing it again sometime in October, and I'm definitely going to be there. If you're free, even for a little while, come down and join us!
Changing the world, one flyer at a time.