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Bash Back!

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Subject: Violence against LGBT people, Gay bashing, Genderqueer, Genderfuck, Anti-Mormonism, Protests against Proposition 8 supporters
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Bash Back!

Bash Back! was a network of radical, anarchist queer projects within the United States. Formed in Chicago in 2007 to facilitate a convergence of radical trans and gay activists from around the country,[1] Bash Back! sought to critique the ideology of the mainstream LGBT movement, which the group saw as assimilation into the dominant institutions of a heteronormative society. Bash Back! was noticeably influenced by the anarchist movement and radical queer groups, such as ACT UP and Gay Shame, and took inspiration from the Stonewall and San Francisco's White Night riots.[2]

Since 2007, other chapters had formed and had carried out various direct actions across the US. In July 2011, after a ruling involving the 2008 incident at Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan, Andy Field, former Bash Back president for the Lansing chapter stated, "There is no Bash Back! anymore," due to "internal politics."[3]

"Points of unity"

According to their website, anyone could form a Bash Back! chapter as long as they adhered to the basic points of unity:

  1. Fight for liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. State recognition in the form of oppressive institutions such as marriage and militarism are not steps toward liberation but rather towards heteronormative assimilation.
  2. A rejection of capitalism, imperialism, and all forms of state power.
  3. Actively oppose oppression both in and out of the "movement." No oppressive behavior is to be tolerated.
  4. Respect a diversity of tactics in the struggle for liberation. Also, do not solely condemn an action on the grounds that the state deems it to be illegal.


First collective action

The first Bash Back! Convergence was held in April 2008. The goal of the convergence was to form ideas for the then-upcoming protests at the DNC and the RNC, and discuss the formation of new Bash Back! chapters in other regions of the country. As a result, groups in Milwaukee, Memphis, Denver, Lansing, and upstate New York sprung up as new chapters.

Together, members of the newly formed Bash Back! groups took to the streets of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood in protest of assimilationist politics, trans-exclusion in the gay community, and recent police assaults on trans and queer people. The unpermitted march was eventually dispersed when a mob surrounded the Chicago Police's Addison/Halsted headquarters, reading aloud statistics of trans and queer people killed by police brutality.[4]

June 2008 Milwaukee Pridefest

In June 2008, the neo-Nazi organization the National Socialist Movement, released a statement that announced its intention to demonstrate at Milwaukee's annual Pridefest as a statement that the Nazis do not support "the promotion of homosexuality in [their] community".[5] In response, Bash Back! Milwaukee planned a confrontation of the hate group.[6] A group of more than twenty confronted members of the NSM, carrying a banner proclaiming "These Faggots Kill Fascists."[7] The action prompted Pridefest organizers to criticize Bash Back!. Members of Bash Back! Milwaukee in turn denounced the organizers as betraying the queer community, stating "They would rather see well protected neo-nazis than a well-defended queer and trans community. Nobody will protect us if not ourselves."[8]

July 2008 Chicago Pride events

Bash Back! Chicago carried out a number of actions during their city's Pride Weekend in 2008. The first was participation in the annual Chicago Dyke March in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Bash Back!'s contingent in the march focused on resistance to gentrification in the Pilsen community,[9] with a large lead banner stating "Bash Back Against Gentrification!"[10]

In addition, members of Bash Back! also took part in Chicago's larger Chicago Pride Parade. Bash Back! Chicago wheeled a cage through the parade containing a member dressed as Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley, whom the group believes is responsible for cutting AIDS funding, turning a blind eye to police torture and brutality, and supporting gentrification. Simultaneously, members of Bash Back! also distributed barf bags with slogans written on them such as "Corporate Pride Makes Me Sick," a statement about the commercial and assimilative intentions of mainstream gay culture.[11]

2008 Memphis Pride festival

In 2008, Mid-South Pride, organizers of the Memphis Pride Festival, announced that the 2008 festival would be co-anchored by Nike and called the move an "expansion opportunity for the GLBT citizens of the city". Outraged, Bash Back! Memphis wheatpasted fliers along Cooper Street the night before the march condemning Nike's sweatshop practices and mainstream gay culture. The following day, as the Memphis Pride march proceeded under the Cooper-Young railroad trestle, several BB! members dropped a banner reading "Queer Liberation, not Queer Consumerism".

August 2008 Democratic National Convention

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Bash Back! Denver organized a protest of a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights lobby group. Bash Back! Denver criticized the HRC for its policies of trans exclusion in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the HRC's support for corporate interests and the Iraq War. The action ended in the detention of four activists at the scene and the arrest of one.[12]

Bash Back! also organized a "trans and queer bloc" as part of the larger black bloc of the Anti-Capitalista Day of Action. The event ended in the detention of most participants, and several bystanders.[13]

The following day, Bash Back! continued to counter-protest, especially against conservatives holding signs reading things like "homo-sex is a sin" by having a queer kiss-in.[14]

September 2008 Republican National Convention

At the 2008 Republican National Convention, members of various Bash Back! groups from around the country participated in a road blockade as a part of Unconventional Action's direct action strategy to disrupt the convention. BB seized an intersection in downtown St. Paul and blocked cars and delegate buses from passing by having a festive dance party. The blockade was eventually met with force by mounted police and the activists were forced to disperse. Soon afterwards, members of Bash Back! also confronted the Westboro Baptist Church when they appeared at the intersection where Bash Back! conducted its action.[15]

October 2008 Annual Human Rights Campaign Dinner

On October 4, 2008, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) held its annual dinner in Washington DC. Bash Back! DC confronted the organization once again for publicly not supporting a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House of Representatives in 2007.[16] About 20 protestors gathered for a dance party at the front doors of the fundraiser with signs such as “HRC Is Not For Me” and “Stonewall Was a Riot”.[17] Dandee Lyon, a member of Bash Back! DC, stated that the reason for the protest was that "assimilation will not save us, it will only end in the decimation of our community. Society must change to accommodate us, queers and transfolk must refuse assimilation and cultural erasure at the hands of the homonormative gay elite and build a world where we can liberate ourselves."[18]

November 2008 attack on Mt. Hope Church in Lansing, MI

On November 9, 2008, a contingent from Bash Back!'s Lansing, MI chapter picketed outside Mount Hope Church, because the church promoted anti-gay beliefs. Meanwhile, several Bash Back! members entered the building disguised in plain-clothes and interrupted a worship service. During the late morning service the group dropped a rainbow banner bearing the slogan "It's Okay to Be Gay! Bash Back!" from the sanctuary balcony and showered a thousand fliers exhorting teenagers in the congregation to "embrace and explore" their feelings, and assuring them there are many organizations supportive of gays that "enable you to be who you truly are."[19][20][21]

According to Bash Back! News, Mount Hope Church was targeted for its fundamentalist belief that homosexuality is a sin, for its production of "hell houses" that demonize gays, and for its hosting of conferences of "ex-gays."[20][21][22]

In May 2009, Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit against Bash Back! on behalf of the church, under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.[23][24] Those sued refused to name others who participated in the protest, so Mount Hope Church issued a subpoena to Riseup Networks in an attempt to obtain the names of email account holders who the church believed either participated in the action or knew who did. As part of a settlement, the activists agreed to a permanent injunction preventing them from disrupting any religious services in the U.S. They also agreed to pay the church $2,750 in damages. The district court entered a default judgment against Bash Back! and Bash Back! Lansing, and closed the case.[25]

2008 "Avenge Duanna" Campaign

In November 2008, to coincide with transgender day of remembrance, Bash Back! groups began staging actions in memory of Duanna Johnson, a transwoman who was brutally beaten by Memphis police officers and murdered while in the process of suing the police department. Many within the Memphis queer community are convinced that the police had a hand in her murder. Bash Back! Philly shut down downtown Philadelphia in a reclaim-the-streets style action,[26] Bash Back! Milwaukee dropped a banner on the UW-M campus reading "R.I.P. Duanna", and Bash Back! Memphis had a hearse and casket delivered to the house of Bridges McRae, one of Duanna's assailants.[27]

2008 California Proposition 8

An affiliate group of Bash Back! claimed credit for pouring glue into the locks of an LDS church building and spray painting on its walls. An internet posting signed by Bash Back!’s Olympia, Washington chapter said: “The Mormon church ... needs to be confronted, attacked, subverted and destroyed.”[28] According to the Chicago Tribune, the acts of vandalism against the LDS Church appear to be in retaliation for support of Proposition 8.[28] The Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the "defacement and destruction of property."[29]

October 2009 vandalism of Human Rights Campaign headquarters

On October 11, 2009 the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington, DC was vandalized by radical queer activists who threw pink and black paint and glitter at the building and left graffiti reading "Quit Leaving Queers Behind".[30] The vandalism came on the eve of the National Equality March, the biggest national queer political mobilization since 2000 and hours after President Barack Obama gave a speech at an HRC fundraiser. A group called Queers Against Assimilation posted a statement about the action on the website of radical queer network Bash Back!. The statement called the attack an act of "glamdalism."

September 2013 confrontation of Canadian men's rights activists

On September 27 at 2:30PM, a workshop called "Time to Bash Back"[31] was held by Rocio Velasquez of "OPIRG Toronto", a group at the University of Toronto.[32] It concluded 2.5 hours prior to a 7pm lecture given later that night by Dr. Miles Groth entitled "Caring About University Men - Why We Need Campus Men’s Centres in a Time of Crisis".[33]

The following day (September 28) a group of about 25 people bringing "Bash Back" banners[34] attended an 11am "Men and Boys in Crisis" rally in Queen's Park, Toronto held to celebrate Groth's lecture. The Bash Back protesters accused the MRAs of being anti-gay, racist and sexist. Roughly twenty police officers attended Queen's Park to keep them separate from the 150 rallying people, as reported by Erin Pizzey,[35] who commented "this is the first time I can remember men’s rights activists gathering together and protesting".


There were documented Bash Back! chapters in each of the following cities and areas:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Denver, CO
  • Lansing, MI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN
  • Eugene, OR
  • Memphis, TN
  • Columbus, OH
  • Olympia, WA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Upstate New York
  • Washington, DC
  • Seattle, WA

See also


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