Oral Majority to Protest Bush Coronation
The Palm Beach Post: 'Freedom Ride Begins Long Journey'
Hartford Courant Hears Florida's Conscience: 'It's a Real Coup'
By Jack Nichols
“The rest,” he says, “are from every walk of life. We're all just Americans, all of us wearing mock crowns and carrying banners that say: 'Protest King George Coronation', 'Bush Selected— Not Elected', and 'Illegitimable' and 'Bush Stole the Election.' ”
The Palm Beach Post headlined its January 18 article about the protesters: “ 'Freedom Ride' Begins Long Journey, ”
“Gay press reports about the Freedom Ride appear to be non-existent except for GayToday's,” said Bob Kunst. Mainstream newspapers, nevertheless, as well TV and radio stations followed the Freedom Riders along the East Coast, stopping first in Riviera Beach where the Reverend Thomas Masters met and provided them with supper at his New Macedonian Baptist Church. “The Reverend Masters had helped organize, along with West Palm Beach Democrats, a protest march of 100 in West Palm Beach the day before.
The Hartford Courant described that event as having shattered a previous calm as hundreds of Bush supporters clashed with a handful of Gore supporters. Kunst was quoted by the paper about the appearance of Katherine Harris on CNN's Larry King Live:
“When I watched her last night I felt so shaken and violated, like we were in the middle of a coup…What's happening here is something we haven't seen in our lifetime: the passions of the American people around the right to vote. It's heavy stuff.”
As January 18th dawned, Kunst recalled for GayToday how on this date in 1977, Miami had passed a sexual orientation non-discrimination ordinance for which he and other South Florida gay and lesbian activists had labored hard. Christian fundamentalists, led in 1977 by Anita Bryant, worked at getting the ordinance rescinded, however, “just as they're attempting to do today,” he said, “ now that the ordinance has been passed to protect our civil rights once again!”
The protesters pointedly demanded a recall of all Republican state representatives, who, Kunst charged, “had abused their authority in Florida during Election 2000, picking and choosing George W. Bush.” Then they were served breakfast and their $300+ tab was paid by the Florida Builder's Trade Council. Democratic house members showed their support as did members of Tallahassee's NOW and the NAACP.
On Thursday, Willis Bivins of Atlanta also called GayToday's offices during the 11p.m. news:
“I just saw Bob Kunst,” he explained, 'He was on Channel 11's NBC 6 p.m. news too, representing his Freedom Ride at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Atlanta. There was no mention of his being a gay activist. If you didn't know anything about the Oral Majority you'd never have known that he was gay.
“He was very articulate and positive and he said in unmistakable words that he and his group believed Bush to be a fraud, an illegitimate president.”
At the same time, Bivins related:
“Matthew Shepard's mother was addressing a crowd of about a thousand at Colony Square. She'd been sponsored by the Atlanta Executive Network. I went to see her, and I've seldom been so moved and exhilarated.”
Judy Shepard had made no bones about how she felt about what Bivins called “the Bush-myth election.”
“Even though she now lives with her husband in Saudi Arabia she showed her extreme disappointment over the election's outcome. All the more, she said, must the gay and lesbian community now come together as a 'solid chorus'.”
The Freedom Ride will demonstrate late Friday afternoon at Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church as it winds onward toward the nation's capitol. Kunst promised more reports to GayToday for its Monday edition, following the group's Inaugural protests on Saturday.
The right-wing Washington Times, anticipating the Freedom Riders' arrival in the nation's capital, described Oral Majority as “a boisterous homosexual group that claims Mr. Bush stole the November election.”
The same newspaper described Kunst as one who “peppers his rapid fire rhetoric with profanity and humor.” In spite of the paper's effort to paint Kunst as a part of fringe effort, it nevertheless caught an essence of his message:
“The election in Florida was stolen by Bush. That's what we're about.”