LOS ANGELES – Tens of thousands of protesters spilled into the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and even Modesto on Saturday in hastily organized and peaceful demonstrations over passage of Proposition 8, the statewide ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage.
A estimated 10,000 boisterous protesters converged about 6 p.m. at Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards, in the Silver Lake district, near the site of the former Black Cat bar which Los Angeles recently designated as a historic-cultural monument for its ’60s role as home of the local gay-rights movement.
Other demonstrations seemed simply to pop up in places around the state, motivated by frustration and anger over the ballot initiative that amends the state Constitution to declare that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized” in California.
“They are mixing religion with politics,” said Steve Ramos, 46, who marched in the Silver Lake protest. “Everyone should have equal rights.”
Like other demonstrators, Ramos was carrying a banner fashioned from a sheet with spray-painted words, “Teach tolerance, not hate.”
The Silver Lake rally began with fiery speeches from the bed of a pickup truck. Among the speakers was Robin Tyler, half of the lesbian couple who were denied a marriage license in 2004 and challenged that rejection all the way to the California Supreme Court. Tyler and her partner married after the court cleared the way for gay weddings, but the legal status of thousands of those marriages is now uncertain.
She expressed frustration over the leadership of the unsuccessful campaign to defeat the ballot measure and lashed out at those who supported it.
“The No on 8 people didn’t want us to use the word ‘bigots.’ But that’s what they are, bigots, bigots, bigots,” Tyler said, bringing a round of cheers from the growing crowd. “We will never be made invisible again. Never again will we let them define who we are.”
The march’s organizers, LA Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights and the ANSWER Coalition, did not apply for a permit, police said. But the protesters were peaceful, at least through 7 p.m.
“It’s a boisterous crowd, but so far, no problems,” said Los Angeles Police Department Commander David Doan. Several hundred police officers were on hand on motorcycles and bicycles, and sprinkled through the crowd.
The protest closed Sunset Boulevard between Fountain Avenue and Sanborn Avenue. Demonstrators then were planning to march west on Santa Monica Boulevard, then head north on Vermont Avenue, then east on Hollywood Boulevard back to Silver Lake.
The protests had been building all week. Thousands of demonstrators marched down Market Street in San Francisco on Friday night, as well as 2,000 in Long Beach, leading to 15 arrests.
Protests are planned today for downtown Los Angeles, Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel, La Jolla, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Visalia. Many of these plan to congregate or march to the steps of Catholic churches or Mormon temples. Catholic organizations spoke in favor of Proposition 8 and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered millions of dollars from church members to help finance the campaign to help its passage.