Council chamber is in chaos as vote to rescind LGBT proclamation causes chamber to erupt in protest, with LGBT protesters arrested, and led out by Police. Mayor in tears.
By Melanie Nathan, July 16, 2013.
Tonight a coalition of LGBT groups and allies attended the Porterville City Council meeting, to oppose the efforts of the city council members who were attempting to rescind the historic proclamation declaring June “LGBT Pride Month” in the city.
Mayor Virginia Gurolla had issued the proclamation recognizing the LGBTQ community at a June City Council meeting, despite the objections of all her City Council members and a large hall of community members, resulting in an acrimonious spill over of homophobic rhetoric by Porterville’s city residents, a promise to rescind the proclamation and threats to recall the Mayor.
Tonight hate won and in a sad statement of shame for Porterville, the Gay Pride proclamation was rescinded. In a greater slap another resolution was passed in its stead. The new resolution attempts to disguise the odious truth behind withdrawal of the LGBT recognition and it was replaced with a different proclamation naming June the Month of “Community Charity and Goodwill”. The rescission and replacement passed 3-1 in combined vote.
Members of the group GetEQUAL, including Robin McGehee and the coalition who had vowed “to engage in non-violent civil disobedience if the Porterville City Council rescinded the Gay Pride Month proclamation at Tuesday’s meeting,” immediately launched their protest, and were arrested.
“The Council chamber was in chaos as the vote to rescind the LGBT proclamation caused the chamber to erupt in protest, with LGBT supporters arrested, and led out by Police,” according to our source who also said that the Mayor stood by in tears as she watched these events unfold.
When the LGBT coalition group approached the police of Porterville to inform them that they intended to protest in arrestable actions, a source informs us that the Porterville police refused to work with the protestors, as is often customary in many cities, including San Francisco, for protests of this nature. Usually police departments are willing to work with peaceful civil disobedience protestors. Discussions such as this usually allow for a delicate and ‘understanding’ arrest where those protesting can know what to expect if detained.
Since Porterville had the only city council in California to declare its support for Proposition 8 in 2008, which banned marriage equality in the State, now that marriage equality has been won in California, the rhetoric and hate has amplified in the small hold out town of Central California’s valley region.
Melissa McMurrey, a member of Gay Porterville, said “a vote to rescind would send a message that gay residents are not welcome in the city.”
In addition a reform measure was passed by a 3-2 vote. Now a bare majority of council members are required to pass all proclamations. This means that a Mayor cannot pass any proclamation such as she did with the Pride Proclamation in the future, without a majority of council members.
So much time and energy has gone into undoing the well deserved recognition for the LGBT community of Porterville. These are good people who have demonized by a group of haters, from the local to Nazi to the Westboro cohort to the “local business and Christian leaders who are always quick to claim that polygamy, incest, bestiality and pedophilia will result if all loving couples can have a civil marriage,” notes Barry Caplan from Porterville Equality and Fairness for All (PEFA), a coalition of local LGBT supportive groups, and local chapters of national organizations.
It would seem that the City council endorses the hate that has been expressed in the name of rescinding the proclamation, because if they did not then they would surely have spoken out against the hate expressed in their meetings and they would surely have refrained from the immature and unconscionable rescission.
Updated: Jennifer McGuire, Robin McGehee and Mehmet McMillan are currently the only ones in custody. Stacey Simmons is the only one to have not been detained out of those who took part in the civil disobedience.
Updated: Council votes 3 – 2 to rescind June LGBT Pride Month Proclamation.
Mayor Gurrola and Vice-Mayor McCracken vote NO, Councilmembers Ward, Shelton, Hamilton vote YES.
MORE ON THE ARRESTS
Updated 7/17 12 noon: The police of Porterville did not treat the protestors well. They were manhandled while being arrested. This was also a result of their refusal to discuss the arrests when approached by activists before the event, who told them they planned civil disobedience, as noted above. The 2 women were released at about 2.00 am in the morning, while Mehmet McMillan was held overnight. Charges are now pending against all three which include disturbing the peace and resisting arrest.
Updated 7/17 2.22 PM: Sgt T. Barteau, the administrative sergeant at Porterville Police Department just returned my call. I ask him the question about the Police refusal to work with activists preceding the civil disobedience action. He seemed to confirm what we knew and have reported, but I will restate it from the Sergeant’s perspective. He said that an activist did make a call to the Department to inform the police about their intent to stage a civil disobedience act at the Porterville City Council meeting if the Proclamation was rescinded. He said the officer who took the call told the activists that they were under a duty to make arrests if any of the penal code’s were violated and if the law was broken. He told the activist that called that they would be arrested. He confirmed that the officer did not work with the activists beyond making that statement. Which is what we have reported above. He seemed to be of the opinion that there was no duty for the police to work any further to explain anything further or to make any plans with the activists.
Barteau did however add that had the activists come down to the police station and asked for him, stating he has an open door policy, he would have spoken with them. He also added, however, that he would have told exactly the same thing and the matter would have played out in the same way.
I must say I was little surprised that the first officer did not advise the activists to come down to the police station to speak to Barteau, if that was at all an option following the first phone call. There seems to be a disconnect between Sgt. Barteau’s open door policy and the officer who answered the phone, failing to make that suggestion. If Barteau believed that a visit from the activists could have made a difference or could have helped at all, then the station officer answering the phone should have known to make that suggestion. Perhaps the officer on duty should have known to give that advice. Perhaps Porterville police are simply unprepared for such civil disobedience type actions and the protocol that could have helped keep the peace. To my way of thinking the police, knowing this was going to happen did everything they could to enforce the law but refused to work to keep the peace.
However after speaking to Sgt. Barteau and hearing his dogmatic stance, it seems to me confirmed that the police in Porterville would not have worked with the activists beyond the point of simply stating the law and informing the activists that if they broke any codes that they would be arrested, and regardless of the nature of the circumstances, that they would be treated like common criminals, instead of activists with a cause staging civil disobedience. I believe had the police worked with the activists the charges would not be as onerous. It seems to me that the police exacerbated the situation and should be held accountable.
I told the Sgt. that an arrestee had told me that she had been physically manhandled. He responded by saying that they were doing their duty to restore order by getting the activists out of the chamber as quickly as possible.
I believe that had the police agreed to work with the activists in the first place, an alliance of respect for the civil disobedience action would have been formed and it would have been a much safer and calmer form of protest. The police botched up when they had the opportunity to discuss what was going to go down. They could have made it much safer and friendlier and chose not to.
The police wanted their pound of flesh and they got it and are probably a reflection on the town and its attitude toward LGBT people. Unfortunately by virtue of what occurred in the hands of a few elected officials, is indeed a reflection on the entire City. This matter is no over.
UPDATED See VIDEO from the Meeting:
By Melanie Nathan, June 14, 2013. Porterville City Council, the only city council in all of California to declare its support for the anti-gay Proposition 8 in 2008, is now threatening to rescind a proclamation signed by its Mayor, who had declared June to be LGBT Pride Month in Porterville. On June 04, despite heated […]
by Melanie Nathan on June 4, 2013 Porterville’s LGBT Community encounters City gay haters in venomous outburst By Melanie Nathan, June 04, 2013. It has been a long dirty battle between the LGBTQ community and some choice government officials and residents of the town of Porterville, California, culminating in tonight’s City Hall showdown, where Mayor Virginia Gurolla issued a proclamation recognizing the […]