BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Nine AIDS activists were arrested after they blockaded the entrance to the Consulate General of Nigeria while protesting that country’s recently enacted law with harsh criminal penalties for LGBT people and for advocacy of LGBT causes.
“We have gathered today to demonstrate our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of Nigeria and with their families and friends,” said Charles King, the president of Housing Works, an AIDS group, at a March 7 rally. “We stand today not only in solidarity with this community, but also with the same communities in Uganda, in Cameroon, in Jamaica, with the young black gay man in East New York, with the young transgender Latina woman in the South Bronx, indeed, with all those around the globe, wherever they may dwell, who live in fear, who are forced from their homes, who suffer violence and indignities upon their person because of who they are or whom they love.”
King spoke to the roughly 400 people who joined the rally that was held in Midtown Manhattan on Second Avenue across from the consulate. Moments after King’s speech, the nine activists blocked the entrance to the building. They were first addressed by a senior consulate staffer using a police megaphone, though he could not be heard over the activists’ chanting, then police warned them to disperse. Similar protests were held in seven other cities around the globe on March 7.
The rally was produced by the Nigerian Solidarity Alliance, with Michael Ighodaro, a Housing Works staffer, being the primary organizer. Ighodaro is a gay Nigerian who won asylum here in the US. The rally was endorsed by a dozen gay and AIDS groups.
Nigeria is the latest nation to enact harsh criminal penalties for homosexuality in a trend that stands in contrast to gains made by the LGBT community on marriage in North America and some European countries.
Gay City News columnist Kelly Cogswell and filmmaker Harriet Hirshorn provide a video report.
On March 5, members of ACT UP, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, and Queer Nation gathered outside the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the UN to protest Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law, also recently put in place. That law applies harsh criminal penalties to LGBT Ugandans and even to those who fail to report knowledge of homosexual activity. Similar protests were held in roughly a half dozen cities on March 5.
Stacey Robinson, who convenes Maranatha, the LGBT ministry at New York City’s Riverside Church, told the crowd, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... It does not matter if you are black, white, straight, gay, transgender, lesbian, whatever you are, you are entitled to your place on God’s green earth... What’s going on in Uganda, we’re not going to sit by and just let happen.”