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Gay History – June 16, 1990: Queer Nation “Takes Back The Night”, Activist Michelangelo Signorile Arrested.

June 16th. 1990

The newly formed activist group Queer Nation holds a Take Back the Night march in New York, protesting hate crimes against gays.

Over 1,000 people attend.

Via the NY Times,  June 18, 1990:

What began as a peaceful march through Greenwich Village late Saturday night to protest violence against homosexuals broke up into clashes, chases and threats early yesterday morning when hecklers taunted demonstrators as the march drew toward its conclusion.

 In one incident, about 1,000 advocates of gay rights were walking along Broadway about 1 A.M., carrying a black and white banner that read “Queers Take Back the Night”‘ when some spectators yelled anti-gay remarks at the crowd.  More than 50 marchers chased the men down Astor Place and around the corner to Ninth Street.  Police officers on foot and officers riding motor scooters on sidewalks also pursued the hecklers. Demonstrators said that three men ran away and that two or three other men sought refuge in an apartment building on Ninth Street. The police guarded the building, the Randall House, as an angry crowd taunted them and demanded that the men be arrested.

“This shows graphically the type of problems we face,” said Gary Konecky, a 33-year-old accountant from Bellerose, L.I., who was one of those chasing the men. “I have no idea what would have happened if we caught them.” “They exacerbated the situation by charging at the person when someone called them names,” said Deputy Inspector Charles Campisi, commander of the Sixth Precinct, who walked in front of the crowd during the four-hour march. “It was a long, tough night.”

The crowd resumed marching when the police, who apparently used another exit to leave with the men, stopped guarding the building. When the Randall House doorman was asked where the police took the men, he pointed toward the basement. The police said no charges were brought as a result of the incident.

The march was organized by Queer Nation, a group formed in March to protest anti-gay violence against homosexuals and to draw more attention to the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.

At 11:20 P.M., about 20 demonstrators rushed at former Mayor Edward I. Koch, shouting “Shame! Shame!” after he walked past the march near Eighth Street with two bodyguards on his way back from seeing the movie “Dick Tracy.” A dozen police officers encircled him and rushed him safely into his apartment. “I would say I was startled, certainly not frightened,” Mr. Koch said later in a telephone interview. “I haven’t been subject to this kind of demonstration or action or invective since I left the mayoralty.”

 A spokesman for the sponsoring group, Scott Gorenstein, said: “For years we’ve been trying to get that man’s attention. Tonight we did.” 

 Inspector Campisi said there were six arrests during the march. Three men were arrested and charged with menacing, aggravated harassment and illegal weapon possession after the police said they were brandishing weapons and taunting homosexuals on Bleecker Street between Grove and Christopher Streets at 2:25 A.M. after the march broke up.  Arrested were Alija Dokovic, 21 years old, of 1050 39th Street, Brooklyn, who the police said had a golf club; Jose Cruz, 16 years old, of 3207 Eighth Avenue of Brooklyn, who was said to have had a baseball bat, and Steven Mendez, 18 years old, of 926 47th Street, Brooklyn, who the police said had a folding knife. All three are from the Borough Park section.

Inspector Campisi said three marchers were arrested on disorderly-conduct charges, issued summonses and released. Mr. Gorenstein, the spokesman for the group, said he only knew of two marchers being arrested: Michelangelo Signorile, 29, a writer, and Lori Cohen, a lawyer, whose age was not available. Mr. Gorenstein said they argued with police officers after the clash on Broadway

Gay History 101:

Queer Nation is an LGBT activist organization founded in March 1990 in New York City, by HIV/AIDS activists from ACT UP. The four founders were outraged at the escalation of anti-gay and lesbian violence on the streets and prejudice in the arts and media. The group is known for its confrontational tactics, its slogans, and the practice of outing.

Here are some of Queer Nation’s first actions:

  • April 20, 1990:  Queer Nation members show up en masse at Macy’s department store where Olympic gold medallist Greg Louganis is promoting a new swimsuit line. Queers arrive with WHEATIES cereal boxes with swimmer’s picture pasted on front, to recall the time the cereal maker rejected Louganis as a spokesperson, ostensibly because he is gay.
  • April 26, 1990:  Responding to the 120% increase in violence against gays and lesbians, Queer Nationals climb the billboard on the roof of Badlands, a Greenwich Village bar and hangs a 40-foot banner that reads: “Dykes and Fags Bash Back!”
  • April 28, 1990:  A pipe bomb explodes in Uncle Charlie’s, a Greenwich Village gay bar, injuring three. In protest, Queer Nation mobilizes 1000 gays and lesbians in a matter of hours. Angry marchers fill the streets, carrying the banner “Dykes and Fags Bash Back.”
  • May 12, 1997: The inauguration of “Queer Shopping Network.” Members of Queer Nation travel from New York City to the Newport Mall in Jersey City with leaflets offering information about queers, safe sex tips, and a list of famous queers throughout history. The leaflets are titled “We’re here, we’re queer and we’d like to say hello!”

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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