|March 1, 2000|
By Karen Thompson
U. California-Los Angeles
(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Chanting, waving banners and blowing whistles, more than 150 people marched through the UCLA campus and Westwood on Tuesday in protest of Propositions 21 and 22.
Event organizers said both propositions are based in fear and prejudice, and unfairly attack minorities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Proposition 21 would increase the punishment for gang-related felonies and allow juveniles to serve time in adult prisons. Proposition 22 would recognize a marriage only between a man and a woman in California.
Opponents of Proposition 21 said that it targets underrepresented minority youth.
"We're here to voice dissent against discriminatory and divisive propositions that further an environment of hate and fear," said USAC general representative Katynja McCory. "An attack on one group of people is an attack on all of us."
Although many students participated, some observers disagreed with the protesters and planned to vote in favor of the propositions.
Carolyn Tan, a first-year psychology student, saw the protest and said she favored Proposition 22 because of her religious beliefs.
"I think marriage should be reserved for the relationship between a man and a woman," Tan said. "I don't think homosexuals should be ostracized, but I don't think that this is the way God intended marriages to be."
After a rally in Meyerhoff Park, about 150 people marched up Bruin Walk, through North Campus and then into Westwood.
The protesters caught the attention of students on their way to classes, some of whom joined them, and also temporarily stopped traffic on Westwood Boulevard.
University police officers followed the march in cars and on bicycles, and intervened twice when the protesters attempted to walk down the center of Westwood Boulevard, stopping traffic.
"We were being very peaceful and were not trying to do anything besides civil disobedience," said African Student Union Chair Cori Shepherd. "That was just their way of silencing our message."
Following the UCPD request that they return to the sidewalk, Shepherd lead the participants in chanting, "UCPD, we see racists."
Officers told the protesters that they did not want to stop the march, but they would not allow marchers to block the street.
The protesters stopped at the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue, where speakers including USAC President Mike de la Rocha made closing remarks.
"It doesn't matter if you're straight, gay, white or colored," de la Rocha said. "This affects all of us and we have justice on our side, but all of this is nothing unless we vote next week."
Several local high school and middle school students attended the rally and spoke out against Proposition 21.
They asked UCLA students to vote against the proposition because they are too young to do so.
"If we're supposed to be the next generation, why are they locking us up?" said Malcolm, a seventh-grader at New Roads Middle School who spoke at the rally.
While much of the rally's time was devoted to speaking against Proposition 21, USAC General Representative Wendy Sanchez was the first speaker and denounced Proposition 22.
"Members of the LGBT community can participate in healthy, loving relationships," Sanchez said. "We only want the same social and emotional security available to heterosexual married couples."
Sanchez likened the effects of the proposition to the prohibition of interracial marriages which she said persisted in some states until less than 30 years ago.
"How is allowing loving couples to marry doing anything but moving our society forward toward understanding and toward love?" Sanchez said.
The scope of the rally reached beyond Propositions 21 and 22 to topics like affirmative action, the educational system and capitalism.
Other speakers included the heads of several USAC student advocacy groups and Fernando Gapasin, professor of Chicana/o Studies.
Gapasin said the rally reminded him of the ones he participated in during the 1970s.
"I'm tired of fighting one proposition after another. We need to rock the system," Gapasin said. "The present system that we're living under is inadequate to take care of the needs of the people."
Shepherd and MEChA chair Jo Anna Ley encouraged students to support student-initiated outreach programs which tutor and support high school students in an effort to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in college.
"Proposition 21 intends to lock up the same youth that are denied entrance to UCLA and that our programs are designed to help," Shepherd said.
The protest was sponsored by a variety of student groups including the African Student Union, MEChA, La Raza, GALA, Samahang Pilipino, the Asian Pacific Coalition, La Familia and Concerned Asian Pacific Students for Action.
(C) 2000 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE
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