Gay Group Joins Chicago Protest Against Big Banks
Thousands of Chicagoans took to the streets of their city this week as part of "Showdown in Chicago," a coalition of organizations who embarked on a three-day protest of the American Bankers Association. Amongst the unions and teamsters, however, was a perhaps unexpected guest: GenderJUST, a grassroots organization that works on issues affecting LGBTQA communities.
Sam Finkelstein, a member of GenderJUST, said their participation really should not come as a surprise, given the group’s belief that issues of racial justice, economic justice, and gender justice are interwoven. But he did note his contingent of approximately 30 participants encountered a look or two from other protesters, in addition to some confusion from gay and lesbian activists.
"It seems like some people didn’t understand why we were doing this, but not everything is about discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity," Finkelstein shared. "Our identities intersect and we are all of these things - workers, queers, whomever we are. Our community has obviously been impacted by this economic crisis, too."
"Showdown in Chicago" launched late Sunday with a rally at the Hyatt followed by two more days of bank sit-in occupations, marches and rallies that were splashed across national news headlines. The action aimed to call Wall Street banks out on rising foreclosures, high fees and what organizers view as the industry’s "cresting unemployment."
Organizers would like to see financial institutions face stricter regulations as part of a larger effort to stimy the recession.
Christina L. Ayala, another member of GenderJUST present for much of the multi-day demonstration, said she had never been to a protest so full of energy.
"And all types of people were involved, including people from unions, people of all ages, young and old. It was really amazing and very emotional to see everyone united under one case," Ayala said.
The GenderJUST contingent carried signs touting phrases like "Queers want to hold banks accountable" and "Queer youth say enough is enough." Finkelstein noted their chants of "We’re here, we’re queer, big banks better fear!" did not catch on too quickly with other marchers, but as they kept going, many others eventually joined in.
"This one young woman persisted and kept going and that can be really intimidating," Finkelstein shared. "But soon, we had these union organizers chanting right along with us, giving us props because we were participating. It was truly empowering and made it feel like it was worth our efforts."
Finkelstein said he hoped GenderJUST’s participation in the week’s action would help to educate LGBT communities on issues of economic justice, in addition to racism, ablebodyism and ageism. He also hoped to see straight communities recognize the contributions of LGBT organizers to their movements.
"We hope to push and challenge the LGBT community on these issues because there is a lot of oppression and privilege within the community that needs to be checked," he said. "And it goes both ways. Trans and queer folk have been essential to a lot of progress in this world and don’t really make it into the stories too often. Because of that, we want to make ourselves more visible."