A group of protesters demanding gay marriage equality briefly shut down the intersection of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, near the northwest corner of Bryant Park, during rush hour this morning.
It was a colorful event for the spectators who saw it. An enormous yellow banner was unfurled by eight members of the group Queer Rising, which included a blind man (Kevin Beauchamp), three drag queens in high heels and giant wigs (Honey LaBronx, Frostie Flakes, and Kitten Withuwhip), and founding members Jake Goodman and Natasha Dillon.
The event happened today, according to Goodman, simply because it was the first of March “and we plan to do something every month until we have full marriage equality.”
The banner holders were prepared for a lot of honking as they attempted to shut down 6th Avenue, but the opposite kind of happened. There were several MTA buses which had been stopped right behind them, whose drivers seemed downright curious about the circus of color and drag queens. One, smiling, even got off his bus and started shooting video. Some pedestrians were confused or annoyed, while others voiced support.
“We were prepared for a lot of road rage,” William Berger, a protester who wasn’t arrested pointed out, “but then again, anyone traveling up 6th Avenue at 8:30 has got to be expecting delays, or they’re crazy.”
Despite Queer Rising’s insistence that they hadn’t notified the NYPD, the police were well prepared for them. About 50 officers were on hand, including two Community Affairs liaisons to the LGBT community.
Before the event, Honey LaBronx told us she’d first gotten involved with marriage when her roommate and “drag mother” Kitten Withuwhip roped her into Drag Queen Weddings for Equality. She said she was now ready to get arrested for the issue, although she admitted it gave her butterflies in her stomach. (When our camera panned down that way, she admonished us not to look as, “I’m not even corseted!”)
Kevin Beauchamp said he was participating because he was “tired of being a second class citizen.” He and his partner of nine years, who is also legally blind, “have talked about getting married, but at this point – we will not get married until we can get married in our home state.”
Heading off to be arrested with a white cane didn’t seem to fluster him, even though he’d never been taken into police custody before. “I have no doubt that my fellow activists will be keeping an eye on me and I’m very comfortable with that. I also have full faith that the New York City Police Department will act on their best behavior, as they quite often do.”
The police acted very quickly. It only took the NYPD about seven minutes to confiscate the sign, cuff Beauchamp and the others with temporary plastic ties, round them up into a paddy wagon, and re-open the street. The protesters are being held at the 7th precinct.