More than 5,000 gather at fifth protest

Todd Wilson

On the fifth straight day of protests against Proposition 8 since Tuesday election, the largest crowd yet rallied at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

More than 5,000 opponents of Proposition 8, the measure banning same-sex marriage in the state, gathered together on the west steps of the Capitol building to voice their anger and dismay over California voters approving the initiative.

Christine Chavez, granddaughter of the late civil-rights leader Cesar Chavez, was the keynote speaker at the rally. Traveling from East Los Angeles to the rally in Sacramento, she told the crowd that she felt it was important to fight for the same rights she and her husband share for the gay and lesbian community.

In an interview with the State Hornet, Chavez said she believes that if her grandfather was still alive, he would not only have voted no on the proposition, but would have walked the streets leading marches and rallies to support the gay and lesbian community.

“My grandfather used say, ‘You can’t champion equality for your own community if you allow discrimination to occur towards other communities,'” she said. “I have no doubt that if he were alive today he would be out here as a champion for this community.”

Daily protests since Tuesday have been organized through the Internet and word of mouth. Elena Martinez helped organize today’s rally through a coalition started on Wednesday morning, Californians against 8. She said the group has relied heavily on Internet marketing to mobilize young people to come out and protest.

Sacramento State associate professor of recreation, parks and tourism administration David Rolloff attended the rally for his fifth day of protesting. He said he is prepared to continue with these types of activities until the California Supreme Court overturns Proposition 8 or a new measure supporting same-sex marriage appears on the ballot next year.

On Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a petition with the state’s Supreme Court to invalidate the measure.

Sacramento residents Mandy and Steve Bryant came to the Capitol to lend their voices to the anti-Proposition 8 movement. They said they don’t understand what supporters of the measure are afraid of with regards to same-sex marriage.

“It puzzles me why so many people would support Prop 8,” Mandy Bryant said. “Especially if they have been part of a group that has been oppressed, how can they oppress others?”

Only two supporters of Proposition 8 came to the Capitol as counter-protestors. Neil Wilson carried a sign that read, “Gay activists stop disrespecting my right to have my vote counted! That’s my constitutional right!”

Wilson said he had expected there to be more counter-protestors at the event. He said that he was there to let protestors know that they have to respect the will of California voters.

“I voted for Proposition 8 and if it had been defeated I would have respected that,” Wilson said. “I am just asking (Proposition 8 opponents) to do the same. Going to the courts to have the proposition overturned makes voting meaningless.”

Following Chavez’s speech the crowed marched around Capitol Park led by Chavez and State Assembly Member Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

Leno said he was impressed by the ability of a grass-roots network to organize the rally on short notice. He said he hopes the courts will resolve the issue. If not, he said he is ready to support taking the issue to the ballot next year.

“There has never been a civil rights movement in this country that has failed,” Leno said.

Todd Wilson can be reached at [email protected]