GetEqual Spooks Reid
BY Kerry Eleveld
July 22 2010 8:20 PM ET
The GetEqual protest that blocked traffic on the Las Vegas strip for about 20 minutes Tuesday was apparently one of a kind. Paul Yandura, one of the group's principal organizers, said local activists and the police alike said they couldn't think of another time when such a protest had shut down traffic on the strip.
"The police initially told the activists that they didn’t even know what they might charge them with because civil disobedience is so rare here," Yandura said. It also made the radar of its intended target: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who at the moment seems far from assured of winning reelection this fall against Tea Party favorite and now Republican nominee Sharron Angle.
The Advocate caught up with Yandura, wandering the halls of Rio hotel at Netroots Nation and dodging incoming calls on his cell phone. Apparently, people want to weigh in on GetEqual's latest action.
Do you think the GetEqual action on the strip was successful?
I think it got Reid’s attention. This was all about making Reid fulfill the promises that he’s made for many years to community. Reid said during his HRC speech last fall that he would fight for and pass ENDA and he’s done neither.
There’s a very small window for ENDA to pass the House and Senate. Pelosi is making excuses for why she can’t do it now, saying they have to take care of other things like “don’t ask, don’t tell” first and that there’s no pathway for ENDA in the Senate. Reid’s saying he can’t do [ENDA] till the House moves on it. It’s a classic chicken and egg and now we know who the chickens are.
These rules – like the House has to go first – are made up to help them not have to do things. There’s some norms in Congress, but there’s no rule that the House has to go first.
If they push DADT off until September for the Senate floor vote – that’s perfect for them. Then they’ll look at the calendar for the rest of the year and say, there’s no time left for ENDA.
What makes you think you got Senator Reid’s attention?
We’ve been getting inquiries from people worried that he’ll be confronted by activists here at Netroots during his speech Saturday. What we’re doing is pushing them, bringing up their own words and promises and asking them to make good. That’s how this works.
And some people are saying, why not target Senators who are against it? But we don’t even know who those Senators are until they bring the bill to a vote. Some lawmakers are telling us they don’t even know if they’re for or against it because they haven’t seen the final language.
At the beginning of last year, activists kept saying, we have to keep vigilant and not give Democrats a break or ENDA won’t pass – and now here we are. In 2007, [the Human Rights Campaign] and Barney [Frank] said if we took a vote and dumped trans protections [from ENDA] it would make the vote much easier in 2009 and now we’re into 2010. No vote.
Another way of measuring success is watching the press and seeing politicians having to respond. We forced a dialog about ENDA this week -- every single Las Vegas paper and local news station covered the action and that was a conversation Reid had to have. And people who want us to stop are telling us, now’s not a good time since he’s running for reelection. We’re saying, if they don’t take the votes when it’s convenient, then we’ll show up when it’s inconvenient.
Have you gotten any other pushback from people other than those who are worried about Reid?
Well we collaborated with lots of people to make this happen – local activists and the folks from HERO -- the Arizona activists who have staged sit-ins at McCain’s office around DADT -- and the Los Angeles activists who interrupted Obama’s speech. We had over 20 people.
But I was really heartened when I looked up and saw Derek Washington out here, he’s the president of the Stonewall Democrats in Southern Nevada.
His quote was that Reid had been a leader on these issues but we have to keep the pressure on if we’re going to get things done. So he was willing to show up at the protest and be publicly quoted.
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