When a bus fueled by hate showed up in front of the UN and Trump Tower on Thursday, March 23, members of the trade union delegation sprung into action and held a demonstration in front of it. Kudos to the women who stood up against this homophobic measure.
The organizers behind the bus include the notoriously anti-LGBTIQ groups National Organization for Marriage and International Organization for the Family, which are based in Washington D.C.
For more information read the Huffington Post's article which includes a photo of our trade union delegates! Yeah!
Here's a personal account of how the protest unfolded by OPSEU's Laurie Nancekivell:
While touring the United Nations (UN) area, I noticed a bright orange bus that was driving around the area. It had hate speech written on it, claiming to be free speech. The bus states:
#Free Speech Bus
Boys are boys....and always will be.
Girls are girls....and always will be.
You can't change sex. Respect all.
Sign Now To Defend Freedom of Speech:
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) heard about a press conference that was being held on March 23 at 11:30 am in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th and First Ave, NYC) and shared this information with the Sisters from Ontario Public Employees Union (OPSEU) who were attending UN parallel events as part of the CLC delegation. Six OPSEU Sisters attended the press conference to act as allies with the Trans Community. Clearly this bus is a message of hatred and not that of free speech.
As a Labour Activist and Human Rights Activist, I have attended a significant number of rallies and protests. It is second nature to me that when there is a need for an added voice, I gladly lend my support to a worthy cause.
To a cause that stands up for people's rights and doesn't try to silence them, shame them or smother them all together. In many of the rallies and protests that I have attended in the past, your one voice likely isn't heard very loudly. What is one voice amongst dozens, hundreds or thousands? However it is the collective voice that is the goal of most rallies. We are often surrounded by a large number of people with similar thoughts and messages as you. In attending this particular press conference, it was unlike any other for me. I, along with my OPSEU Sisters, walked around the area of where the press conference was to be held and surveyed the area.
Who were the misguided and misinformed haters that were claiming their message was to 'defend free speech' and 'respect all'? Who were the people that we were there to support in their quest for equal and fair treatment, to ask for the ability to live their lives without impacting the lives of anyone else? There was a large group of approximately 35 people that were quietly standing in a congregation. The "#FreeSpeechBus" was parked along side of them. We were then joined by two CLC Sisters where we stood off to the side, clearly separating ourselves from the larger group. We also then connected with a couple of transgendered women. They were informed that they had allies in us and that we were there to protest with them, protect and support them. In my conversation with one of these women, it was evident to see her stress and anxiety reduced somewhat and that impact of our attendance alone was significant.
Once the press conference started, we began to amplify their voices and object to the discriminatory and hateful rhetoric that was coming from the large group. I proudly held a flag that was provided to me from these women.
We bellowed out chants such as "Hey Hey, ho, ho...All this hate has got to go!; Trans Rights are Human Rights!; Hate Speech is not Free Speech." I took the lead of the people we were there to support. When they wanted to change the chant, we helped to put it in a beat that we could all maintain. I yelled these messages with all of our might and did not let up. I did not want a single person walking by, thinking that this whole group was in support of those holding the press conference. Others walking by stood with us for a few minutes at a time and began chanting with us. Some stated they only had a few minutes, but heard what we were saying and felt compelled to stand up for the Trans community as well. Our voices brought forward more supporters.
We stood with our signs and with Trans flags in front of their hateful bus. We did not want pictures of this bus being taken without our message blocking it. More importantly than any of these actions, our presence provided the platform for those directly affected to speak for themselves. Quite often we don't see the direct impact of our actions. I'm fairly certain that this demonstration would not have changed the minds of those attending the press conference, however the show of solidarity and the support provided on this day provided encouragement and momentum that will carry with the Trans people at the rally. It also provided an avenue for those walking by to participate and show their support. Perhaps they too will find a way to become an activist in this fight.
In speaking with the Sisters who participated, it was clear that our participation in this protest will remain with us as a proud moment in our activism.