Nearly 200 anti-Israel protestors stormed Friday’s gay rights Creating Change Conference at the Chicago Hilton, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force, forcing the cancellation of an event hosted by the Israeli LGBTQ group A Wider Bridge.
A video posted by the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) reveals a volatile situation as Jews trying to leave the area are being physically stopped by protesters shouting orders of “Occupy, Occupy,” while a man trying to leave the area is heard shouting “you’re pushing me.”
“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,” explained Adrian Shanker, Executive Director of the Allentown, Pennsylvania-based, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
Andy Thayer of GLN told the Haym Salomon Center, “People at our protest were angry — rightly so — but no one’s safety was significantly threatened.”
The week before the conference began, the National LGBTQ Task Force had cancelled the reception, fearing the event would be “intensely divisive rather than casual and fun.” That decision was reversed after public outrage.
A January 22 statement by the Gay Liberation Network explained why the activists targeted the Israeli presence:
“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.’
“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,” said Shanker. “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.”
SC Newsgroup is a recently formed news service, a project of the Haym Salomon Center.