The chanting was faint but audible from about two blocks away, growing louder on approach to the post office plaza at Fifth and Liberty: “Love, don’t hate! Don’t discriminate!” Drivers honked as their cars passed the crowd of about 250 people who came out on a miserably wet and cold Saturday afternoon to support marriage equality.
Many held umbrellas, rainbow-striped flags and handmade signs, including one that read “The weather sucks, but so does inequality.”
Similar marches were held in about 300 cities today, a coordinated response to the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California, which banned gay marriage.
David Brown, a UM law student and lead organizer of the Ann Arbor march, said the Nov. 4 election was a bittersweet moment, with the joy of Barack Obama’s historic victory offset by the Prop 8 decision. “We’re tired of the bitter,” he said.
Organizers made a point of telling people to emphasize the positive, said Alysha Rooks, another law student who helped pull off the event. Signs reflected that directive, with hearts and rainbows and sayings like “Married with PRIDE” and “One World, One Love.” Brown said that some of the rallies in Calfornia immediately following the Prop 8 vote were divisive – some took an anti-Mormon tone, for example. “We are not anti anything,” he said. “We’re pro love, pro equality.”
Locally, the march came together fast. Brown is involved in the UM Outlaws, a law school group for LGBT students and friends. He got an email about the national efforts on Wednesday, and quickly contacted other UM groups to pull together something in Ann Arbor. (They ultimately held their rally a little later in the day than others, to allow people time to watch Northwestern defeat Michigan.)
They also called the Ann Arbor police last week, alerting them to the rally. “The Ann Arbor police are so awesome,” said law student Tom Bousnakis. They were extremely helpful, especially on short notice, he said, and had offered to help with traffic when the marchers crossed the street.
Around 4 p.m., Brown thanked the crowd for coming and introduced Sandi Smith, who was recently elected to city council. “This is just the start,” she said. “I think they’ve woken up the sleeping giant.” After a few more remarks from Brown – who told the gathering that “love, respect and equality can overcome hate, division and fear” – the marchers took off north on Fifth, careful to cross the street with the light and to stay on the sidewalks. As they walked, the group cycled through several chants: “Stop the hate, undo Prop 8!” and “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!”
When The Chronicle asked who came up with the chants, Chris Armstrong, a UM sophomore, responded: “I mean, we go to Michigan – we know how to do chants!”