They had grown angry at the constant humiliation and harassment by police. In the face of more brutality the anger turned to action and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city, the crowd was joined by others who started shouting and throwing whatever they could find at the police.
No, this isn't a report from Baltimore or Ferguson. It is from the Stonewall Inn decades ago. Or it could have been San Francisco in 1979 when a peaceful march for Harvey Milk gave way to riots as the former police officer who murdered Milk and Mayor Moscone was given the lightest possible sentence. Rioting is not a rational act. It is a howl of pain when no answer seems available or imminent.
Equality Florida's purpose is to secure equality and justice for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and from the beginning we embedded a commitment to combating racism and sexism into our mission.
We understood then that we live at the intersection of multiple identities, because the LGBT community includes people of all races, all genders, all economic statuses and all ethnicities. The challenges we face as women, people of color and people of diverse ethnicities are amplified by anti-LGBT discrimination.
It is why we have been part of coalitions to protect affirmative action and reproductive choice. It is why we have worked for fair and open elections and to end voter suppression tactics aimed particularly at communities of color.
It is why we spoke out against Stand Your Ground laws when Trayvon Martin was killed.
Those stances have come with some push-back from within our own community. Some people asked, "What does that have to do with gay rights?"
Our answer is: Everything.
We take these stands for the same reason that the NAACP spoke up for marriage equality.
For the same reason Planned Parenthood stands shoulder to shoulder with us in Tallahassee. For the same reason Dr. King said these words:
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. This is the interrelated structure of all reality. You can never be what you ought to be until I become what I ought to be -- and vice versa.
The actions and experiences of any one person have a ripple effect that impact everyone else. What happens to one happens to all.
Our destinies are tied. And injustice is amplified disproportionately for the LGBT community. Homelessness and bullying are not unique experiences of our young people, but we understand we have to address those issues because of their disproportionate impact on our community.
When we say "Black Lives Matter" we are acknowledging the grim statistics:
The average life expectancy for a black transgender woman is 35 years.
An estimated 25.1 percent of black American women live in poverty. This is higher than any other ethnic group and black women in same-sex relationships are about three times likelier to live in poverty than their white counterparts.
Black gay and bisexual men in Florida are more affected by HIV/AIDS than any other racial or ethnic group in America. We must acknowledge the role of race in this devastating reality.
Equality Florida's board of directors voted to ensure our organization is a visible part of the #BlackLivesMatter conversation. Of course we know all lives matter. But in a culture literally built on denying black people full humanity, in a society where the gains of the past are under constant attack, at a time when Stand Your Ground laws make fear and bias evidence to exonerate, it is important that we say clearly that Black Lives Matter.
Finally, it is important to remember the connection. The LGBT community cuts across every demographic of race, gender, economic status and ethnicity, religion and region.
And we have a history that is important to remember. Each year when we celebrate Pride, we are celebrating our communities' resistance to a culture where our lives did not matter. Where police harassment and brutality was common and expected. Where humiliation and fear were the price of no longer hiding. So we understand what it means to stand up and push back against the police, against a culture that tells us we are less than, that our lives don't matter.
Policing is a challenging often dangerous job that draws many who take their oath to protect and serve seriously and with integrity. We believe that the tough job of policing is made more dangerous by those who swear to protect and serve but violate the community's trust. Keeping the community safe is a shared responsibility and we are committed to working with our allies in the community and in law enforcement to identify and advocate for solutions.
We are heartened at the growing voices from within law enforcement calling for real change. We will work to amplify those voices as we work toward the necessary changes in law and in custom.
But this conversation is not simply about the actions of a few "bad apples", it is about the systemic issues and root causes.
Working with our colleagues at Color of Change and the Black Lives Matter organizers in Florida among others, we will craft an action plan to ensure our voice is among those calling for fairness, accountability and justice.
Now is the time to put action behind these words.
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