High energy and charged emotions at a protest against Tuesdays passage of Proposition 8 led to several outbreaks of violence.
More than 2,000 protesters, including about 35 students from UCLAs Queer Alliance, gathered at the Los Angeles Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard at 2 p.m. Thursday, upset about Yes on 8 contributions from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. California voted Tuesday in favor of Proposition 8, which sets a Constitutional ban on gay marriage.
The protest was organized by the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and had been announced at a similar protest in Los Angeles held Wednesday night.
Early Thursday afternoon, the crowd was angry but nonviolent, but by 4 p.m., there were reports of fights and arrests.
Mariese Carriere, 26, of Los Angeles was punched in the nose as he marched with others up Westwood Boulevard at about 3:45 p.m. Near the intersection of Westwood and Ohio, protesters tore a Yes on 8 sign from the bed of a pickup truck, which they had forced to a stop.
All I heard was a door open, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground, Carriere said. His injuries included a bloody nose and a cut lip, but he was undeterred and continued marching.
After the alleged assault, the driver was questioned briefly by police, who were soon occupied with another fight, which resulted in two arrests.
Around 8:15 p.m., about six to eight people in T-shirts and football jerseys had positioned themselves along the front of the temples gates and were harassing people with No on 8 paraphernalia leaving the march.
Police in riot gear were stationed on the sidewalk in front of the temple, but did not stop the group when they surrounded one man in a No on 8 shirt and yelled at him to go home.
Earlier in the afternoon, Lt. John Romero, a public information officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, said that officers had been planning for the protest after being caught off guard at protests around Los Angeles Wednesday night.
For hot-button issues like this, you can almost anticipate something like that, Romero said about the number of protests being planned.
Chris Clarkin, administrator of Christopher Street West Association Inc., said police had reached out to members of the community. His group, which organizes the annual Pride parades for Los Angeles, was helping to gather intelligence and to liaise with the crowd.
Were helping the Gay and Lesbian Center with logistics and operations, Clarkin said. Because we produce parades, things of that nature, were used to dealing with crowds and having person-to-person interaction.
Tax this church!
Many of the protesters Thursday had campaigned against Proposition 8 prior to Tuesdays elections.
Danny Torres, chair of Queer Alliance, said students had worked at phone banks and organized rallies and protests. The passage of Proposition 8 came as a disappointing surprise, he said.
Yesterday was weird. Everyone was so sad and empty, and today everyones pissed, Torres, a fourth-year political science student, said Thursday evening.
It was supposed to be a victory by at least 6 percent. ... In the last few hours, there was a surge of donations and an influx of volunteers from Yes on 8.
Thursdays protest was meant to bring attention to the contributions by the LDS church, Torres said. Because the church has tax-exempt status, it is barred from donating more than 5 percent of its income to political campaigns that would affect constitutional rights.
Several media organizations have reported that the Mormon church donated $20 million to Proposition 8.
After leaders in Utah urged Mormons to work for the proposition, individual Mormon donors sent in at least $14 million, according to Mormonsfor8.com.
In front of the temple gates, chants of Shame on you! were directed toward the complex, and shouts of Tax this church! at whomever would listen.
Some signs insisted the church be stripped of its tax-exempt status. Others had slogans about love and equality.
A wake-up call to get involved
Though many present Thursday had long been involved in gay rights campaigns, some had been pushed to action only after they saw the results of the national election.
Emmie Nagata, a fourth-year sociology student, saw police activity on her way home and joined the march down Santa Monica Boulevard back to the temple around 5:30 p.m.
The fact that it passed was just so absurd to me, and Id regret it if I didnt come out and support (the protest), she said.
Nagata also said she would not consider herself politically involved and the march was her first protest.
I think having gay friends makes it more concrete, she said about her personal involvement, but she stressed that the issue was about civil rights, not just gays and lesbians.
Those who gathered at the temple in the afternoon later marched from Santa Monica Boulevard to Westwood Boulevard, up to Wilshire and back down Santa Monica to the temple. They were gay and straight, young and old, religious and ardently secular, from across California and as far away as Europe.
Bubbles Madrid, in drag and a blond wig, posed for cameras and said, I came all the way from Spain. Im here to fight with you guys to help you because in Spain its legal to (have) gay marriage.
In Madrids hands was a sign hand-lettered on hot pink poster board: Mormons have many wives, I just want one.
David Fackerell, left the Mormon church in the 90s after he came out. When Sterling King, a supporter of Proposition 8, was being interviewed by television reporters, Fackerell edged into the background, decked out in signs saying Hate is not a family value.
He said he has two gay brothers and another in Utah with nine kids.
After school, younger protesters arrived in front of the temples gates.
Im an avid supporter of gay rights, even though I personally dont know any gay people, Ben Fulligni, 12, said. Its just wrong to eliminate fundamental rights. He also said porn on the TMZ billboards was more damaging to marriage than gay rights.
What happens next?
As the protest entered into its fifth hour, the spirit of the protest was largely one of unity and mutual support.
Do not despair! Look around here! urged a woman perched on the walls of the temple who called herself Mama Joi. As shouts for equal rights and Yes, we can! echoed through the audience, she continued, My people, members of the great community of the LGBT ... I love you, I love you, I love you.
She urged the gathered crowd to keep fighting for their rights and to take the battle to Washington, if necessary.
UCLA students are also committed to keep fighting, said Torres, the Queer Alliance chair. Campus gay rights groups plan to attend other rallies and protests in the coming days, including a rally Saturday in Silver Lake.
The Williams Institute, a sexual orientation think tank associated with the UCLA School of Law is planning a speaker panel for next week.
What Happens Next? will feature representatives of the No on 8 campaign and national queer organizations.
Mama Joi continued, As far as I can see, I see people coming to join us.
The crowd chanted bak: Truth and love will always win.
With reports from Leigh Alvarez and Maya Sugarman, Bruin senior staff.