Chaos erupts as Gays arrested when Porterville votes to rescind pride proclamation

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.

Robin McGehee Protest hate of Porterville City Council

Robin McGehee Protests hate of Porterville City Council as arrests take place

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Tonight hate won and in a sad statement of shame for Porterville, the Gay Pride proclamation was rescinded.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McGehee and the coalition who had vowed “to engage in non-violent civil disobedience if the Porterville City Council rescinded the Gay Pride Month proclamation at Tuesday’s meeting,” immediately launched their protest, and were arrested.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.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 9.05.10 PM

Robin McGeHee of GetEQUAL on left

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.Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 9.16.02 PM

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.


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:


PortervilleProclamationPorterville Spews More Hate by threatening to rescind LGBT Proclamation

by on June 14, 2013

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 […]

California Mayor Issues LGBT Proclamation despite Hateful City and Council Outburst

by 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 […]

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33 Comments on “Chaos erupts as Gays arrested when Porterville votes to rescind pride proclamation”

  1. Renata Moreira July 16, 2013 at 10:04 PM #

    “Community Charity and Goodwill”? Are they serious??? What can we do from the Bay Area to support the LGBT Community of Porterville? Are there petitions going around? Shall we reach out to Robin & GetEqual partners? Oh, California…

    • Melanie Nathan July 16, 2013 at 10:59 PM #

      Show support by writing to Porterville City Council and telling them to hang their heads in shame. We shoud inundate them with correspondence. Polite of course…. and telling them how shameful their behavior – I like the comment by Laura above.

      • Laura July 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM #

        We should create a handy link and premade message that can be easily distributed for signing and submitting to Porterville City Council through social networking. A thing or something of that sort. There are a lot of people upset right now and if we make it convenient (because as much as we would like to believe otherwise many people won’t go out of their way to promote change) for them to sign and submit, at least Porterville City Council will know how many people are upset about this.

        • Melanie Nathan July 17, 2013 at 2:01 PM #

          Yes I will connect to the activists there on the ground and see what they suggest. I always like to check in with those at the first impact level. I will make a follow up post on actions we can take and provide your suggestion Laura, thanks.

    • Jane Sheehan July 18, 2013 at 12:23 AM #

      I just shared this with Kate Kendall of NCLR. This is an outrage, and hopefully, an actionable outrage! Please keep me in the loop, if you like.

    • Porterville Equality and Fairness for All July 19, 2013 at 8:59 PM #

      reach out to us on fb at Porterville Equality and Fairness for All. We represent the LGBT community here. We are not done.

      Like us and make sure you are getting notifications…we will be in touch!

      • Melanie Nathan July 19, 2013 at 9:24 PM #

        We will continue to report here on OBLOGDEE with updates and liase with you for calls to action

  2. Laura July 16, 2013 at 10:15 PM #

    Porterville City Council HAS to have more important things on their agenda than rescinding a month of tolerance for a judged group of citizens.

  3. Chowski July 16, 2013 at 10:31 PM #

    Stop the radical Mormon Agenda, before their “true prophet of god” command his minions to come after YOU!

  4. jerbearinsantafe July 16, 2013 at 10:52 PM #

    Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer News, Views & Memories and commented:
    This reminds me of a major protest I was part of over 20 years ago in Massachusetts. This was the year before an anti-discrimination law with protection based on sexual orientation passed. That year it got hung him a committee because the homophobic senator wouldn’t let the full Senate vote. So protesters chained themselves to the seats in the gallery. They were viciously dragged across the chairs and a capital policeman stomped on one of the guys who was practicing civil disobedience. What he did count on was the presence of a TV crew and the stomping was on the late local news. Meanwhile we were yelling shame and soon a couple hundred protesters. Some criticized the action but it started a process that ended with the passing of the bill and signed into law by Gov. Dukakis. So to the LGBT citizens of Porterville – well done, some of the city councilors will be defeated at the ballot box.

  5. AuntTootzToldMe July 17, 2013 at 5:52 AM #

    I’ve visited this little village in CA and I wouldn’t want to live there or pass through again. The people exuded a “sense” of us vs. them, even to visitors. Poo on them… CA will live without Porterville.

  6. Littleguy July 17, 2013 at 6:47 AM #

    I’m ashamed to be from there.

  7. Mike July 17, 2013 at 8:38 AM #

    One methodology to turn the actions (not necessarily the attitudes and beliefs) of a group or even a city is via their pocket book. A simple task: have some groups make reservations at some of the venues in Porterville, using the premise of class or family reunions. Be prepared to plunk down some downpayment minimums. Make sure that the venue knows that your group intends to spend LOTS of money…. Right before the deadline, call up, rescind the reservation, explaining that your group decided that they would not support Porterville businesses by having your group event there, and further, that each member of your group will not come to Porterville to do business, and encourage others to do the same. Once businesses perceive that they are losing money, they might start advocating, however reluctantly, to change the city’s mind…

    • Lin July 18, 2013 at 7:39 AM #

      There ya go, tank an economy full of people who could actually care less whether it goes one way or the other. That’s the spirit that one the war ” I don’t like 3 of your 5 council members, so screw the other 60,000 people that make up the economy” with reservations you wouldnt have made anyway because we have such a large visitor demographic… Get real and grow up. You don’t care to come to porterville anyway. Yea, it’s a sleepy highly conservative area of the bluest state in the nation. What did you think was going to happen? It was going to follow suit with the state and wave it’s rights as a city? The mayors actions were not popular and kinda flew under the radar. Had she been up front on the talks of the proclamation rather than simply putting it into place, maybe some of the more conservative folk wouldn’t have felt burned. So… I’m not saying it is right to oppress people at all, but she should have known the city she represents and that she more or less started the controversy on a bad foot.
      There are ways of going about things and boycotting an entire city based on its conservative tendency is not just as judgemental as the subject at hand?

      Preach some more.

      • Melanie Nathan July 18, 2013 at 10:21 AM #

        Who voted for the bigots? Who voted for the haters? A majority of the 60,000 – right? So lets see the 60,000 come down to City Hall nect meeting and ask for Gay Pride Proclamation to be reinstated or refuse to vote for those dirtbags who allowed the hate to spew in their chambers!

        • Lin July 18, 2013 at 11:09 AM #

          Yes, because all 60,000 voters ever show up? Its not that black and white. Yes, same sex marriage deserve the same rights. But do I, a citizen of this city, have to be held hostage to the hate of our government (which is prolific throughout the nation) because of them? Are all of us responsible for the short falls of our city council? Am i responsible for voting for our president and us not being out of the middle east; a promise that couldn’t be followed through? Had I known that wasn’t going to happen would it have changed my vote? No, but is it any of the people’s fault because they voted for him on that premise? I would hope not.

          The issue I am seeing in the aftermath is frustration and now hate being spit, with almost encompassing reach, on our entire city. Media can do a lot of things good and bad. I’m supportive of the cause but sad to see supporters frustration (in the aftermath) in attacking this city.
          National headlines are spewing hate to all of “those racists, christians, and bigots that live in Porterville” not stating that the younger demographics are supportive, that their are continuing efforts to support the cause, and that the “haters” are such a minority in comparison to the rest of the town.

          I would look to Martin Luther King, probably the most prominent and successful civil reformer to have ever lived, on his tactics… which I’m sure broke his heart many many times before the success of his efforts were realized.

          Malcom-x also supported the same general idea, but did so in spewing hate. Violence was often the issue and that definitely wasn’t the case with these supporters, but now national supporters spew hate because someone else is differing their opinion. Isn’t that exactly what we are fighting against?

          Basically, once the arrests got involved, it gave a lot of ammo for the press and those frustrated to go on a spree. I would suggest, no matter how difficult and heartbreaking it may be, to take the MLK route and realize that some battles take longer than others. Turning the other cheek and showing that you love them even though they are misguided, will make them realize their woes much more than putting them on blast.

          If you want to claim love, then say you will pray for the people of this misguided town. Say that you are sorry that the city feels that way and that you will not give up.

          Someday it will pass. Until then, stop trying to hurt the citizens that disagree with the cause. Love them and let them realize their faults over time… Maybe they will, maybe they wont. But your love for humanity for all of its good and bad should triumph in the end. Not a hate towards the better part of 60,000 people that agree with the majority of what their city council has done for them on many other topics.

          Obama has done great things, I do not view him as a failure because he couldn’t pull through on one of his biggest campaign platforms. Dont view us as failures because 100% of city wont show up for your cause. Shoot, if we could actually, realistically get that kind of turn out, it’s likely that the 2008-9 city council vote would have laid out much differently and its possible we wouldnt be having this discussion today.

          But show me any city with that kind of turn out and I will be substantially shocked. We may have lost this battle on equality…this time… but there are more to come.

          Stop the hate people. That only fuels the fire on a very tough subject.

          • Melanie Nathan July 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM #

            It is a sad statement on ALL of Porterville and the City must be held accountable for who it elects. Such is the nature of a democracy. The Police refused to work with the activists. In San Francisco we stage civil disobedience to make our point all the time and we are treated with respect when we do. But not in Porterville. Whatever transpires because of it is well deserved.

            Do you think apartheid would EVER have ended without the boycotts and there the majority of South Africans were willing to suffer the boycotts which were horrendous for them (I was there) all so that equality could be won. So let the masses suffer until equality is won if that is what it takes.

            There is no excuse for the rescission of that proclamation except pure homophobia and Porterville allowed it to happen.

            If Porterville really cares then recall those people on the City Council. Your statement is a reminder to me of how important it is for us to boycott. Thank you!

            • Lin July 18, 2013 at 1:50 PM #

              I hang my head in shame for the city council too, I also am rather discouraged that you think boycotts in 3rd world countries are on the same political effectiveness as the US. We have a system that allows for a lot of this things to be brought to light. There is massive momentum that has been gaining local and national recognition and yet, you compare this one city to actions of the apartheid?

              Situational awareness is key in this battle. If you want to win by saying “screw off” Porterville I can guarantee you will only get resistance and will fuel the fire for those that already have their issues with the cause.

              Of course the police were in the wrong, noticed I mentioned the “aftermath” many times.

              Again a supporter, maybe not nearly as zealous as some, but these conversations make me think that some supporters are just as strangely zealous as the hateful people you speak about.

              If you want to maintain that this is the citizen’s fault, then you have thoroughly convinced me that you will maintain blind hate towards my town no matter what transpires, no matter whether they are for the cause or not.

              The cause is completely right, the tact (attacking the people of porterville) in which you want to achieve it may end up making the process take longer by “starting a fight”
              This issue will be resolved in time and I’m sorry if it wasn’t in the timeline that you are demanding.

              I wouldn’t show up at your door with demands. I would show up with requests, and patience. That is if one truly believes in love for all.

              But yes, bastardize all of us because the political system isn’t perfect. Thanks

              • Melanie Nathan July 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM #

                I do not compare to apartheid. I speak of the effectiveness of boycotts in waking up the people of Porterville who for the most part dont give a damn because if they did then where are they – have they come forward to speak up for the LGBT community?

              • Melanie Nathan July 18, 2013 at 1:55 PM #

                In any fight there is room for moderates and extremists….

                • Lin July 18, 2013 at 2:19 PM #

                  Well, good luck winning over the people of Porterville with extremist and/or blanket hate for their opinions, as misguided as they are. That should really help all those business owners respect your cause.

                • Melanie Nathan July 18, 2013 at 6:48 PM #

                  I dont expect to win over any haters. The good people of Porterville should NOT need to be won over. They should join the cause – regardless. Anyone who tolerates such hate in their City are not good people ands will not be won over no matter what one does or does not do. They are not worth trying to win over. Failing to join the cause means they are not good people. So what do you suggest sitting in a circle and singing Kumbaya with haters?

  8. Jonathan July 17, 2013 at 9:23 AM #

    Look, it is the job of a city government to uphold the law and keep the peace, not tell people what they should believe in, I feel this is a good decision to remove the declaration as it was a proclamation of support for something many people in the city have strong religious convictions against. The city council can not pick and choose whom they serve, they are there to represent all. It would be just as bad if they chose a month to celebrate Catholic pride, or Mexican Pride, or anything else that singles out a group and does not respect the entire community. “Hate” did not win, in fact, the most hateful people I know are those who fight in support of homosexual rights, they hate anyone who does not support their efforts, often in the most vial and degrading verbal abuse anyone could use.

    • Melanie Nathan July 17, 2013 at 10:13 AM #

      Were you there to hear the comments Jonathan, The death threats after the proclamation. LGBT people are a minority that has been deprived of their basic civil rights. The LGBT communities are recognized in many cities and counties around the world with such proclamations. Instead Porterville gave it under their law then changed the law and took it away amidst hate rhetoric that was spewn all over that chamber.

    • Jane Sheehan July 18, 2013 at 12:25 AM #

      Straw man argument, Jonathan. Hate did win, and you’re an shining example of that.

  9. Kathleen LaBrie July 17, 2013 at 8:30 PM #

    My son,18, who’s grandparents with other family members, live in Porterville, asks: so what does the LGBT community do next? I ask, how can this be made better? I printed out a copy of the proclamation, and it’s purpose was to recognize the importance of PRIDE and SUPPORT to help resist the negative affects of bullying and homophobia on the risk of youth suicide!

    • Porterville Equality and Fairness for All July 19, 2013 at 9:03 PM #

      Please ask him to like us at We represent LGBT Community in Porterville. We are not done, and we absolutely need to reach more of the youth and the seniors in this citizen. Please have him message me, reference this comment, and I will be in touch.

  10. Kathleen LaBrie July 17, 2013 at 8:31 PM #

    Remember in December 1993 when Billings, Montana came together as a community to defends it’s minority residents, especially Jewish families, when hate groups began targeting families displaying menorahs for the holidays? The local paper took action by printing a large illustrated menorah, and by the thousands folks displayed them on windows and doors.

  11. Kathleen LaBrie July 17, 2013 at 8:31 PM #

    Perhaps the Porterville Recorder could show the same support for a vulnerable minority in its own community. Re-print the proclamation as it was originally issued by the Mayor of Porterville in support of LGBT youth at-risk. Give fair-minded Porterville folks the opportunity to display the proclamation publicly on windows, doors, and in cars. Let them show support for young people who may very much need it.

    • Porterville Equality and Fairness for All July 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM #

      That’s an excellent idea. You can bet I will talk to the Editor/Publisher of the paper about this. Unlikely he will do it, but we can use that too.


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