The Creating Change Conference at the Chicago Hilton, a conference for gay rights which took place on Friday which was hosted National LGBTQ Task Force, was disrupted thanks to anti-Israel protesters.
This has forced the cancellation of an event of an event hosted by Wider Bridge, who advocate growing the relationship between the “LGBTQ communities of North America and Israel.”
The protesters were reportedly chanting “no justice, no peace”, and apparently had signs which equated the Jewish state with apartheid and Zionism with racism, targeting a reception which had LGBT activists Sarah Kala-Meir and Tom Canning, of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.
Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Adrian Shanker, had this to say: “There were about 200 protesters outside the room. They blockaded the room, three of them entered the room, took over the stage, and the people from Jerusalem Open House were not allowed to speak. They [Kala-Meir and Canning] were escorted out of the room so they would be safe, and we were all asked to leave through the service entrance for our safety.”
Many of the people present at the Jerusalem Open House reception were there as a show of support, and also to learn how the organisation was dealing with aftermath of the stabbing rampage that happened at last year’s Jerusalem Pride parade.
According to the video above, which which posted by the Gay Liberation Network: “…besides the protests of Arabs, Muslims and Latinos, the Task Force’s moves prompted a who’s who of local Black Lives Matter organizations to publicly denounce the Task Force and/or boycott the conference.”
Adrian Shanker continued by saying: “When you have Jewish people in a room blockaded by a lot of angry people yelling at them from outside, accusing them of being racists and blocking the exits so they can’t leave, it creates an unsafe environment for Jews, as our cultural history has shown over time.”
However, the gay rights leader does give those protesting the benefit of the doubt, saying that he believes many did not realise the impact they would have on a number of visibly Jewish attendees.
“For a lot of us it wasn’t a discomfort for having discourse around Israel and Palestine and human rights, but rather a discomfort because many of the protestors didn’t quite understand the language they were using—that the rhetoric they were chanting went beyond a political difference—that some of the language was actually incendiary.”
For those of you wondering why the protesters targeted this particular conference, a statement from the Gay Liberation Network explains their motivations: “For several years the Israeli government has attempted to use propaganda about the freedoms some LGBTQs in that country have as a cover for their increasingly brutal rule over Palestinians, a process known as ‘pinkwashing.’”
“Because of the brutal racism of the country, mimicking South Africa under apartheid—one set of laws for Jews, another for Palestinians—most Palestinian LGBTQs don’t enjoy those freedoms. Instead, they endure the anti-Palestinian racism meted out on a daily basis to gay and non-gay alike.”
However, Adrian Shanker, despite his beliefs that the protestors did not realise the impact of their actions on the attendees, didn’t seem to approve of their tactics overall: “The people who were protesting didn’t want to have a discussion, come listen and learn and respond. They just wanted to yell and disrupt and prevent a conversation from happening because they disagree with it. I am an observant Jew who is LGBT, who has personal viewpoints that are mixed around Israel and I think it’s okay to be critical of Israeli government action at times, that doesn’t mean we should disrupt speakers we disagree with.”