The Advocate’s summer intern is tired of running into city dwellers who think the Midwest is a mecca for gay discrimination and conservative ideologies. He’s finding that narrow-mindedness can happen anywhere.
By Steven Harbaugh
I moved to Los Angeles this summer from Kent, Ohio, for an internship at The Advocate. Kent, nicknamed “Tree City” for its beautiful foliage, is a relatively small town of little more than 27,000 people—a far cry from the more than 15 million people in Southern California. Kent’s claim to fame is the fact that four college students were killed there on May 4, 1970, for protesting the Vietnam War. Also, Drew Carey used to go to school there. In the Midwest, a late night trip to Wal-Mart or hanging out at 24-hour "greasy spoon" family restaurants usually top the evening’s entertainment.
Many Midwesterners, especially gay ones, view the West Coast, and specifically Los Angeles, as a golden light of opportunity and liberal openness. The weather is ten times better than it is in the Snow Belt. People have nicer cars.
But I’ve realized that Los Angeles is not that open-minded. It’s exciting to live one block from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, but few people here talk to one another—gay or straight. Few here really even acknowledge that others are alive—unless they are begging for money. If someone talks to me here, I suspect they are either asking for money or mentally disturbed, in which case what they say won’t make sense. Maybe it’s just Hollywood.
In the new movie Collateral Tom Cruise tells a story about a man who died on an L.A. subway train and no one noticed he wasn’t alive until he had made six trips around the city. Even the living sometimes experience that very same disjointed feeling in Los Angeles. And being gay doesn’t help.
Hoping for the Best, Planning for the Worst
By Michael Blanding, AlterNet. Posted July 16, 2004.
Even though police in Boston are working to accomodate protesters during the Democratic convention, there are signs that officers are planning for mass arrests.
The permits have been signed, the free-speech zone has been cleared, and the fences are starting to rise. Boston is bracing itself for thousands of protesters that will descend upon the city for the Democratic National Convention. The city has promised to welcome demonstrators with open arms, anxious to avoid the clashes that have marred previous large-scale political events such as the Republican National Convention four years ago in Philadelphia and the Free Trade Area of the Americas Summit last November in Miami.
But even as police have been upfront on their plans by working with groups such as the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), concerns persist about inadequate space to accommodate protesters at the convention hall, as well as other signs that police are planning for mass arrests and are preemptively harassing protesters coming to Boston.
In response to civil libertarians' concerns, police moved the "free-speech zone to a location closer to the FleetCenter where the convention will be held, and have helped expedite permit requests. Even so, the current protest pen is still claustrophobic and cramped. It has only one small entrance and small two exits, one of them with only a five-foot clearance below elevated subway tracks. The area itself is only large enough to hold some 4,000 protesters, even though more than twice that many are expected to arrive. Protesters won’t have direct access to the FleetCenter either, but will have to address their concerns to delegates as they arrive at the bus terminal next to the zone. Two fences separated by 10 feet will prevent activists from handing out pamphlets or information.
Police spokesman Lt. Kevin Foley, while admitting that the space isn’t perfect, claims that the area is the closest that protesters have ever been allowed to a major event such as this. “Taking into account post-9/11 security concerns, and Boston’s narrow street configurations, we’ve gone out of our way to accommodate protesters,” he says.