GAYS AGAINST GUNS: A COMMUNITY RISES UP
On Tuesday June 12, the two-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Gays Against Guns will be recreating Pulse’s weekly event Twisted Tuesdays It will be a variety show and fundraiser held at the Henrietta Hudson bar with proceeds going to benefit the Pulse community.
In 2016 the Pulse nightclub in Florida was the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in our history. 49 people were shot and killed, the majority of which were members of the LGBTQ community. After the politicians were done sending thoughts and prayers it was up to the community devastated by these murders to pick up the pieces and work to make sure that shootings like that never happen again. This is how Gays Against Guns (GAG) was born.
It started the day after the Pulse massacre. Two men, Brian Worth and Kevin Hertzog, rented a room at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan and sent out a Facebook invite to everyone they knew to come down and discuss the shooting. They got a room for 60 people, 300 showed up.
Catherine Marino-Thomas, representative for GAG, understands why everything came together so quickly, “There are some seasoned activists in the group, like myself. Some of us are from ACT UP, some of us are from Queer Nation, some of us are from Marriage Equality USA and our visibility was quick because we all have reputations from other campaigns and we also have networks and connections.”
One of the things GAG does is try to bring attention to what it calls the Chain Of Death which is every step from when the gun is manufactured to when it hits the streets. Says Marino-Thomas, “There are hedge funds that invest in gun stocks for their clients, there are corporations that give discounts to NRA members, there are politicians who take money from the NRA, they are culpable in this. All these entities have a responsibility for the gun violence we suffer in this country. One of GAG’s biggest campaigns, and most constant campaign, is bringing that to light.”
Their protests have become iconic because of the use of their Human Beings, which are people who dress entirely in white, wear a white veil and carry a placard of the name of someone killed in gun violence. These Human Beings have been used in protests but also at Pride marches where 49 of them march representing the 49 victims of Pulse. At last year’s Women’s March they carried the names of cis and trans women killed in gun violence. “We take them everywhere with us,” says Marino-Thomas, “These folks never speak, they’re standing in for the person that was killed.”
While the gay community built this movement over two years there are some teenagers in Florida who’ve started something more akin to a revolution. After the Parkland shooting GAG sent members there the next day to offer support. What does Marino-Thomas think of what these high school students have done? “It’s fantastic,” she says. “They’re relentless, they’re not giving up. They are very good at using social media. They know how to reach people. I believe that’s going to make a difference.”
What started in one room in Manhattan has grown into chapters nationwide including D.C, Orlando and San Francisco. Gays Against Guns will continue it’s fight for gun reform through the mid-term elections and beyond.