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The Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store in San Francisco's Castro district was the site of a recent Occupy protest -- but HRC officials say they share the movement's concern about economic issues.
Protesters with Occupy the Castro marched through the neighborhood December 3, chanting, distributing literature, stopping to deliver a letter about economic injustice to a Citibank branch, and finally ending up at the HRC store, located in the building that once housed pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk's camera shop.
Inside the store, they chanted, "HRC, don't speak for me!" and "We're a movement, not a market!" (See video below.) They also delivered a letter highlighting the high rate of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment among LGBT people, especially transgender people. It reads in part, "We call on the Human Rights Campaign to make affordable housing, living wage jobs, the maintenance of benefits, and healthcare for all priorities that it pushes on both the local and national level. Never has it been more critical for our national organizations to stand up for bread-and-butter issues that affect the 99% of us who struggle to make ends meet every day."
One of the protesters, longtime activist Michael Petrelis, wrote on his blog that HRC is "riddled with Democratic gay 1 percenters," has effected little change for ordinary working LGBT people, and "has sold out transgendered folks over employment and other protections." The latter is a reference to the fact in 2007 the organization agreed to back federal antidiscrimination legislation that covered discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. The bill did not pass both house of Congress, and HRC has since supported only a transgender-inclusive version.
HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz responded to the protest with this statement to The Advocate: "We understand and share the concerns over the unmet needs of our community -- particularly among those most vulnerable. Every day the Human Rights Campaign works to make better the lives of LGBT people and we will continue to work to erase discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, HRC mandates that all vendors of merchandise sold by the organization attest that they comply with a set of workplace standards including no forced or child labor, no harassment or abuse, and that proper health and safety standards are followed."