Gearing Up for the GOP Bash

Among many protests, gay bigs planning “Summer of Love” concert

Delegates to the Republican National Convention in New York August 29-September 2 will be hounded by demonstrations for myriad causes, not least of which is a massive protest against President Bush’s war in Iraq.

But Republican support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has prompted some well-connected gay people in show business to try to put together a Concert for Equality with headliner entertainment in Central Park on Saturday, August 28. It could easily attract one of the largest crowds that week.

The group just started weekly meetings at Elmo’s on Seventh Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets on Mondays at 7 p.m. and has already attracted some heavy hitters in the entertainment community. Bill Silva, who has produced concerts for Sting, Annie Lennox, Melissa Etheridge, and Rod Stewart among others, has signed on as executive producer. Tim Rosta, MTV’s senior vice president and former director of the music industry’s Lifebeat event, is also helping create the event and line up talent.

Among the Honorary Committee who have joined are actress Lainie Kazan, publisher Sean Strub, political consultant Ethan Geto, author David Rakoff, and “Hairspray” co-star Jackie Hoffman.

“Our primary goal right now is lining up talent,” Robbe said.

The organizers are also involved in negotiations with the city for a permit for the event. Their meetings are open. There is more information at www. summeroflove04.com where you can also sign up for weekly e-mails.

It is unclear what other gay specific protests will take place during convention week. Joe Tarver of the Empire State Pride Agenda wrote in an e-mail, “We’ve had some informal and preliminary discussions with some of the national groups about the need to talk about each other’s objectives, avoid duplication of efforts where it makes sense and in general just be smart about how we approach the convention.”

Bill Dobbs, the out gay media coordinator of United for Peace and Justice that organized the big anti-war rallies last year, said, “There has been a high level of interest and meeting for months about Republican National Convention protests.”

His group is planning a massive march called “The World Says No to the Bush Agenda” on Sunday, August 29th up Eighth Avenue from 23rd Street past Madison Square Garden where the convention is and up to Columbus Circle and on to the Great Lawn for a rally.

There are several coalitions planning demonstrations around AIDS issues, housing, and issues related to the poor.

There is a website called www.rncnotwelcome.org which is serving as a clearinghouse for many of the events that are planned.

“This is the first time the Republicans have ever been in New York for their convention,” Dobbs said. “They’ve pushed forward their date to be closer to 9/11,” a move that in itself has come under tremendous criticism as the Bush re-election campaign tries to wrap itself in the 9/11 catastrophe. Dobbs added that there are great concerns that the NYPD will try to “snuff out” protest during the convention.

“There’s a big concern about being able to move around and the First Amendment being respected,” he said.

United for Peace and Justice will also be demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention in Boston July 26-29.

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