Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In

Act on Principles is a group promoting “Full LGBT civil rights now. No delay. No excuses.” The group is currently attempting to get the American Equality Bill (AEB) filed in the Senate.  The AEB would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as federally protected statuses. 

Queer SOS is an activist project of the Act on Principles group that is focusing their attention on Senator Gillibrand of New York.  Queer SOS wants Sen. Gillibrand to file the proposed American Equality Bill.  Last Friday Queer SOS hosted “Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In” in Grand Central Station:

Aside from hosting energizing flash mob art-performances-with-a-message, Queer SOS is demonstrating daily outside of Sen. Gillibrand’s offices.  This is part of the the communication that the AEB Project sent to Sen. Gillibrand on 9/17/10 (bolding is original):

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

I’m writing to request again that you commit to and file a Civil Rights bill for our community immediately.

As you know, it is the prime duty of Government to protect its citizens from discrimination and Congress has failed over 30 million LGBTQ people in this regard.

We can not wait any longer for action to redress this.

To press this issue, activists will be launching a daily, friendly vigil outside your campaign offices starting Sept. 27th until the American Equality Bill (AEB) is filed.   If no bill is filed as of October 11th we plan to go 24/7, and then on Nov. 2nd to begin group fasting. 

This is a very serious matter as people will be risking their health standing outside and fasting for basic human justice.  We should not have to take these steps, but talking about this has failed and there is no other option.

We will broadcast our work daily, seek as much media attention as possible, and try to join you at other public campaign appearances.

Please know that this is not an opposition action in any way and that we are very happy your campaign is doing so well! But we NEED YOUR HELP now! We need this bill to organize around and there is no excuse for not filing it immediately.

rest of letter omitted

I support public demonstrations that do not harm or unduly inconvenience the audience to the point where they are coerced into taking action.  Get out there, make your message known, go first amendment-protected speech! 

But group fasting?

It appears to me that threatening a fast is a coercive action – Hey Senator, I’m going to hurt myself unless you do what I want you to do.  I support the goals of this group and I want to support the group itself, but I have reservations about fasting as a political statement.  I know that hunger strikes aren’t new, but why are they okay?  Why is holding one’s health hostage an acceptable means of political pressure?  Can anyone tell me why hunger strikes are appropriate, or give me arguments about why they are not?


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8 Responses to “Flash Mob: Homophobia Kills Die-In”

  1. softscience Says:

    I can see what you’re saying about this being holding oneself hostage but if this group believes that people are at risk simply by not having this bill filed then threatening his own health isn’t anymore of a hostage situation than the one already taking place.

    • softscience Says:

      and this is Erin (not really softscience)…..

    • biodork Says:

      Before I rip that to shreds, let me say thanks for responding. This is a hard to address issue and it’s easy to not think about. It’s much easier to come back to the blog on a lol cats day. I mean, that’s what I’d probably do.

      “…if this group believes that people are at risk…”

      No, no, I know why the group *says* they’re going to fast. But all sorts of people have all sorts of beliefs. Some people believe that the country is going to go to hell because we let women get abortions, but if pro-lifers started undergoing hunger strikes until Roe v. Wade is repealed, we’d call them morons. You know, even more than we already do. And this is a group that *really* believes that “people” (read: fetuses) are at risk of death. We’d tell them that they’re operating outside of the constitutional system of law on which this country operates.

  2. Erin Says:

    okay, I’m back and as myself this time….. at the same time, we wouldn’t tell the pro-lifers that they’re operating outside the laws, as I don’t believe a hunger strike is illegal (but I could be wrong?). We’d tell them they’re morons and go on our merry way. Which I’ll do in this situation too, because I don’t think its the best way to go about pressuring political change but it is *one* way. Its a strategy to garner sympathy for one’s cause and it only works when the group targets the right audience and the right movement (notice these guys are only going after *filing* the bill not until its passed into law). If the pro-lifers target say Barbara Boxer, she’ll call them morons. But if they target a religious constituency, then they might be more likely to get their intended response. Same in this situation, a hunger strike or die-in will only work if Gillibrand is already semi-sympathetic to the cause, meaning that these guys are really risking their lives, just stressing out their metabolism.

    So that’s a long way of saying that a political strategy (read: manipulation) is almost always acceptable, even if it is crude and/or ridiculous.

  3. biodork Says:

    I don’t mean operating outside the law in that hunger strikes are *prohibited by law*, but it that hunger strikes are operating outside the intent of the legal system, which is you make your point heard, and you allow decisions to be made in a non-violent manner.

    Hunger strikes are harmful, if not violent. I would argue that because they are threatening harm to themselves which they promise to stop if they get their way, this political strategy is not just evocative, it’s coercive. Why not grab a needle and start poking little holes all over their body? That’s violent, but not any more harmful that starving themselves (barring infection). If all they want is attention, why isn’t the 24/7 sit-in enough?

    Maybe “coercion” is the messy word. Perhaps the entire argument rests in the point that the action is “non-violent”, and as you say, a political strategy (manipulation i.e., coercion) is almost always acceptable…as long as it’s non-violent.

    The 24/7 sit in could certainly be annoying and the group is promising to end the sit-down if they get their way, which could also be viewed as coercive / manipulative.


  4. softscience Says:

    I bet Mohandas Gandhi and the British empire (ca. 1920s) have better arguments than we do. I just think that political coersion one way or another is going to happen and really see less of a problem with hunger strikes because as you say they’re non-violent towards others.

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