LGBT rights take center stage at surprise Atlanta anti-Trump protest march

What began as a peaceful rally in support of commonsense gun legislation became an anti-Trump protest march through downtown Atlanta on Friday, when the president was in town speaking to the National Rifle Association.

Leslie Hodges, an Atlanta resident who attended the rally, said she felt “we’re trying to live in the Wild West again.”

“We just think there needs to be some common sense about how we deal with guns in this country,” Hodges told Georgia Voice. “I have a gun and I’m a good shot, but I don’t think civilians need to be running around with assault weapons, with high-capacity clips where they can kill 60 people in a few seconds. I just think there’s a commonsense place everybody can get to where guns are regulated in a way that we have a safe country.”

Following a rally at Woodruff Park where at least 90 individuals conducted a “die-in” to symbolize the number of Americans killed each day by gun violence, Georgia Alliance for Social Justice’s Janel Green took to the megaphone to ask if Atlantans wanted to have a little civil disobedience.

Chanting all the way to the CNN Center, the original rally crowd was quickly joined by other groups and individuals protesting the NRA and the president. One businessman braved the heat in his suit with a hastily drawn “Trump is Lame” sign to walk the rest of the route.

When the march reached the CNN Center — and the line of police outside — protestors took turns at the megaphone, addressing the president, Republican Sen. David Perdue, Congressional candidate Karen Handel and the NRA with a plethora of concerns, including LGBT rights.

“I’m 17 and I’m gay and for the first time in my country, I’ve been afraid to grow up and love who I want,” one young woman said.

Others called out Republican leadership for disrespecting LGBT individuals, women, African-Americans and immigrants.

“I’m a foreigner,” one woman, who earlier cheered as a first-time protestor, said. “I came here to get a good education and do a good job. I need for Donald Trump to stop it with the immigrants. We are people too.”

Campus carry a focal point of protestors

“It is very unfortunate that more than 50 years ago, Dr. [Martin Luther King Jr.], the nonviolent creature, died, bled and gave a speech saying that he had a dream — and today we are still dreaming,” one woman said at the CNN Center. “Know this, Donald Trump. You have stepped into a city of greatness. You stepped into a land of not only dreamers, but also of doers and it’s not going down on our watch. … We stand up for what we believe in.”

Her remarks continued those of the earlier rally, where the focus remained encouraging Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the Georgia campus carry bill, which sits on his desk for the second year in a row. Guest speakers also said the NRA tricked its members into a false idea of what its priorities are.

“Donald Trump thinks we’re dumb enough to believe that the NRA speaks for us and wants to protect us,” said Brian Long, executive director of Better Georgia. “What would lead Donald Trump to shill for the NRA? Other than his natural talent for telling lies, what could possibly motivate Donald Trump to fly into Atlanta — a city he hates — and push the NRA’s agenda? The answer is $30 million. The NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump and gain White House support for its dangerous and extreme agenda.”

Kim Parker Russell, an Atlanta native who now lives in Brooklyn, New York, said she returned home to give the NRA an earful. She was shot in Atlanta 18 years ago.

“The NRA today is not your grandfather’s NRA. Responsible gun-owning NRA members have been duped,” Russell said. “They’re not about sportsmanship. They’re not about safety. They’re about selling guns. How do you sell guns? You gin up fear. You make every American think their doomsday is coming and they need a gun. … What the NRA members don’t see is that this is what their real agenda is.”

Gerald Griggs of the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice said his organization has no problem with people using their Second Amendment rights, but believes the NRA puts up roadblocks against they legislation they’re in favor of.

“What we are against is high-capacity guns and magazines that are causing an increase in gun violence and the mass shootings that are occurring across the country,” he said.

The fight against campus carry continues with week 15 of the #ResistTrumpTuesdays movement, where Georgians raise concerns with the governor and Sen. Perdue.

Anti-campus carry #ResistTrumpTuesdays rally and march
Tuesday, May 2, at 12:30 p.m.
191 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta
March will end at the state Capitol