A lesbian activist in New York is trying to unite LGBT members of Occupy Wall Street protests across the country to highlight the economic issues gay and transgender people face for simply being who they are.
Jessica Naomi, 60, from Catskills, N.Y., started the Occupy Equality movement, an Internet gathering of LGBT activists involved in the nationwide OWS protests, a month ago and has held several working group meetings online.
“We’re trying to connect the street to the net,” Naomi said in a phone interview. “We’re using it as a way to do direct action.”
Naomi said a disability makes it difficult for her to walk and attend OWS protests, which is why she turned to the Internet for a way to become involved.
“I’m disabled, I can’t even go to these things. My ability to walk is very limited, which is why I’m trying to connect the Internet to the street. We should all have a voice,” Naomi said.
Occupy Equality aims to unite LGBT economic protesters
The theme of the Occupy Wall Street movement is largely centered on financial inequality, excessive CEO pay and malicious banking practices, but Naomi said LGBT issues should be a core principal of the OWS movement, as well.
LGBT activists have been involved with Occupy Atlanta since the local protests began. The group’s pledge also includes a line expressly forbidding homophobia and transphobia during “Occupy” events.
Naomi said she hopes activists will use Occupy Equality to bring awareness of LGBT issues to “Occupy” protests.
“How do we get the ‘Occupy’ allies involved in LGBT marches and protests?” Noami said. “Children that are being forced out of schools because of bullying are being robbed of their futures. It isn’t a separate issue. We’re being as foreclosed on just as everybody else. We’re being fired for being who we are. It’s not hard to make that leap.”
Corporate influence in politics, bullying and employment protections are the focus of Occupy Equality, according to Naomi. The issue that has the most in common with the OWS movement, at least economically, is marriage.
“There are 1,138 financial rights of marriage because marriage is about property rights. They’re about the rights of inheritance, social security and children being protected financially,” she said.
For Occupy Equality, highlighting how major LGBT rights organizations receive funding can show how politically counter-productive the practice is to the advancement of gay rights.
Many of the same corporations that donate money to gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign turn around and give money to politicians who vote against the gay agenda, Naomi said.
Naomi added a major goal of the Occupy Equality movement was to have a presence in all 50 states. As of press time, the group has members in more than a dozen states, with more people signing up daily, Naomi said.
“It’s taken off. I didn’t expect that to happen,” Naomi said. “The tyranny of one is still tyranny. If you share a vision with people, then you should organize around that vision.”
Occupy Atlanta’s protesters have been in flux since the crackdown on their presence in Woodruff Park in the early morning hours of Oct. 26 by the Atlanta Police Department.
Local occupiers have since gathered at the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter, run by Taskforce for the Homeless, but have also convened at the city’s Woodruff Park to face additional arrests at least twice.
Organizers for Occupy Atlanta continue to converge on Woodruff Park for the group’s General Assembly meetings each night at 7 p.m., but the APD has not allowed the encampment to make a permanent return.