Main | Friday, June 12, 2009

Cleve Jones: We Have The Permit, The March On Washington Is Definitely On

Speaking with me by phone this afternoon, activist Cleve Jones confirmed that despite earlier reports that the National Mall was previously booked and unavailable, he does have a permit from the Parks Department for a Columbus Day weekend March On Washington. "We put in a request for the West Lawn of the Capitol, where the Obama inauguration took place, and we got it. Nobody else had applied for it," said Jones.

Jones added, "We've been getting nothing but complete cooperation from all the authorities - the DC police, the mayor, the Parks Service. They told us, 'Go ahead, you've got it. Put the word out.' They are happy to work with us and are expecting a lot of people."

I asked Jones if he could provide a physical copy of the permit. He explained, "You put in your application, they approve it and time-stamp it, and that's all they give you for weeks. The actual paperwork usually isn't issued until ten days before or so." Jones claims that two of the other events reportedly scheduled to occur on the planned weekend will not, in fact, take place. (I've been unable to find any internet mention of the "Million Man March For God", one of the three events listed in the above-linked post.) The third scheduled event, an annual breast cancer awareness rally, is run by a group that Jones said has worked side-by-side with him many times in previous years when their events coincided with National Mall displays by the NAMES Project. He expects friendly cooperation from them.

As to the cost of putting on the weekend, Jones stresses that the MOW will be a stripped down, no frills, purely activism-focused event. "This will not be a three day mulit-media spectacular" he said. "Most of the hundreds of protests I've organized cost nothing. We will have a minimal stage, a sound system, and enough port-a-potties for the crowd. That's it. We won't be flying in celebrities and putting them up in fancy hotels. This will be a two hour march, then a two hour rally, and then sending everybody home to their congressional districts to organize for 2010." Jones said that in addition to a Sunday rally on the West Lawn, he is hoping to put together a Saturday night candlelight HIV/AIDS vigil at the Lincoln Memorial, but won't have confirmation of that item for a few days.

Regarding the MOW's timing, Jones has this to say: "It's a three day weekend, it's easier to travel, and the weather is usually very good. That's why previous marches have taken place on that weekend. Much has been said about Congress not being in session on that week and that's why we are organizing this march at the congressional district level. This is not a march as we've seen in the past. It's an organizing tool to build a national network of grassroots activists." Jones estimated that "most people on the west coast will be able to come to this march for less than $700."

While opposition to a MOW in 2009 has been quite strong, Jones dismissed the naysayers. "Many of the the people opposing this march are the same people pushing for a repeal of Prop 8 in 2010." Jones questioned the wisdom of continuing to fight local battles for LGBT rights, saying, "It's just an endless state by state, city by city, county by county battle could go on for decades at enormous cost. But if we could shift our focus and seize this historic moment and get federal legislation, get SCOTUS [on our side], we could end it all at the federal level. People in leadership seem so invested in an incredibly long, local level, deeply impermanent struggle."

Jones issued this call to action: "We should be saying, 'Enough of this, we demand full equality under civil law.' We should be marching, engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience every day. We have a window, but it's already starting to close. If you think you're going to get anything out of Obama in the second half of his term, you don't know anything about political history. In a year, he'll be in full re-election mode."

Referring to today's DOJ-DOMA news, Jones closed with this: "It's so clear that Obama and the Democratic leadership are turning their backs on us. If we don't go for it now, we'll get nothing. It's beginning to smell a lot like Clinton."

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