Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday 28 July, 1997

MIAMI'S KUNST: REMEMBER VERSACE! PASS OUR RIGHTS BILL!

"New McCarthyism" Seen ------ 5,489 Sign Protest to City Hall
Reward Money Controversy Fuels Public Anger----Black Book Feared

By Jack Nichols

 

Last week Miami Beach gay activist Bob Kunst promised GayToday to raise consciousness levels in matters relating to the murder of Gianni Versace. In the interim, Kunst has appeared twice critiquing police and FBI misbehavior on CBS' 48 Hours, CNN, and even in the pages of a former nemesis-newspaper, the Miami Herald, which properly identified him by name as an activist. Kunst has, in the last week, given over 230 interviews to newspapers and TV crews worldwide.

He has also set up a table and collected--in front of the Versace mansion--5,489 signatures in two days, demanding that City Hall pay currently refused reward money to Fernando Carreira, the houseboat caretaker who discovered the whereabouts of Cunanan. Miami Beach residents and foreign visitors were equally enraged Saturday and Sunday at City Hall's refusal to turn over a paltry sum of $45,000 that constituted the promised reward.

New York City's Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, it has been announced, are presenting Fernando Carreira with the organization's promised $10,000 reward for his aiding in Cunanan's capture.

Fernando Carreira and his lawyer flanked Kunst as cameras clicked and the houseboat caretaker himself signed the "Oral Majority" petition.

Thus, lesbians and gays have hereby shown the proper degree of social concern by working to fulfill a community promise of the reward. Miami Beach police and City Hall, New York's Mayor Guiliani, and the FBI have not shown such proper concern as they deny Carreira a promised reward. "Cheap isn't the word," Kunst fired at City Hall announcements about the rewards.

Due in part to police incompetence, and due to the fact that activist Kunst first blatantly pointed it out (see GayToday's previous coverage-- Archives) the media has regularly given effective, stinging coverage to investigative police sluggishness.

The fiery gay activist explained to reporters how FBI and police have leaked a series of diversionary stories to hide their actual bafflement-- stories that included Cunanan's supposed drag disguise-- possible AIDS revenge--S&M, etc., each smearing a different segment of the gay community.

With the hubbub surrounding the possibility of a Cunanan "black-book listing", prominent people in the closet--nationwide--are said to be fearing a politically-inspired police witchhunt that belies the so-called "cooperative atmosphere" touted by lawmen, which is nothing more," says Kunst, "than FBI smoke and mirrors strategies hiding real local and national police-bureau anti-gay machismo gone awry."

At one point police critiqued the Versace family for purportedly disallowing immediate entrance into the Ocean Drive mansion. Through its lawyer, the slain designer-giant's family has denied police allegations.

Kunst is unhappy with what he perceives as dark political clouds on the horizon. He says that the talk of Cunanan's black book is also fanning suspicions of the blacklisting of national figures, of "McCarthyism repeated" like that which has flared in South Florida on many occasions since the Herald first kept biased records of "pervert roundups" in 1953.

"The Sun Sentinel called me tonight," to see if I knew that a local bath house owner, a Miami businessman, knew Cunanan." Kunst explains. The making of such connections by police worries the gay activist, he says, because police may decide to persecute any one-- on sexual scandal grounds-- because of a possible black book and for simply for having known the fugitive at some other time."

Kunst knocks the "sleazebag" San Diego AIDS counselor who performed what he calls an unethical and self-serving publicity stunt, and who has purportedly already "revealed" Cunanan's HIV status. "Now we must know the real truth, because of that counselor and because of the stories the FBI has been spreading. Cunanan's murdered subjects in Minneapolis both tested negative." "This issue of Cunanan's HIV status pits the FBI against us," said Kunst to GayToday in an aside that was essentially repeated over Sunday's national CBS Evening News. "The FBI used it as a weapon against us, a diversion, turning it into a political issue, trying to smear the AIDS community. Now that they've used it this way, we should know about Cunanan's HIV status, which finding out is not illegal because, as a circuit judge ruled here in a local HIV disclosure case, 'The HIV+ person must first require non-disclosure in handwriting,' and Cunanan has never done that!"

Tuesday July 29 Kunst will burst again into a media whirlwind as he goes to arraignment to answer to a police officer's fabricated story of being scratched by him. Kunst, who has stood at the storm centers of major controversies from Anita to AIDS, and who has demonstrated for social justice in many nations, says, "I may be opinionated, but I'm not stupid enough to scratch an officer of the law." It was the first time in a quarter century of protesting that Kunst had been arrested.

At a July 8 Miami rally protesting the failure of Miami's equal rights ordinance, Kunst vehemently denies any altercation with the arresting officer who, he says, simply reacted negatively to his sign: "Christian Reich," and began pushing him around to gain the approval of a large crowd of frenzied Bible-thumpers. South Florida's Hotspots' editor, George Ferencz, defends Kunst against false police charges.

A planned march of angry citizens on the Beach's City Hall will ask the police, "Who will ever trust reward moneys offered again?" Kunst insists that "Miami area police have always been engaged in policing sex. They do it best, better than catching violent criminals. They like to hang around toilets in the park."

"That's why we need complete accountability from the police," he says, about how they spend taxpayers moneys. This is like the Pentagon's $7,000 toilets. We want police accountability for money spent. Every level of law enforcement must be held accountable."

Among the several thousands of Kunst's petition signers were people from all parts of Miami Beach, and of the world, people of all races, sexual orientations, ethnic origins, and colors, Blacks, Gays, and Hispanics. There were activist-oriented signers from New York, Orlando, Thailand, Sweden, San Diego-- "from everywhere--it was amazing--amazing.." said Kunst of his interchanges with an aroused citizenry.

Kunst is currently executing his next step, helping in the coordination with people everywhere of a national protest--"Remember Gianni Versace By Passing the Rights Ordinance and ENDA!" that will "Go for the big prize: right to the White House and the Congress. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act must be passed! ENDA! We're demanding federal legislation and we want equal rights--everything that everybody else wants or has."

ENDA is said to be currently languishing in the U.S. Congress. It lost by one vote after a United States Senate debate that took place in concert with the passage of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

President Clinton has announced his backing for ENDA. Kunst indicated that the time was nigh for the Chief Executive to speak out forcefully to push through ENDA's equal rights protective legislation which the president already supports. Speaking to growing movement in this direction, Kunst told GayToday, "This is one genuinely good thing that all of Gianni Versace's gay and straight admirers could do that would honor his memory effectively, to stand up somehow and make sure the pressure goes on so that ENDA gets passed! Let people know what's at stake!"

Bob Kunst can be reached to help coordinate nationwide ENDA projects. (305) 866-8558.

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission e-mail gaytoday@badpuppy.com

GayToday Image Map