Blade photo editor hit with rubber bullets, tear gas
by Joe Siegel
In a month when LGBTQ media outlets would normally be covering Pride celebrations, they are instead covering violent clashes between police and protesters in major cities.
A nationwide series of marches organized by Black Lives Matter activists have been held following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month. The uprising comes on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in the headlines since March.
Not surprisingly, the coverage of Floyd’s death has drawn comparisons to discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community.
Minneapolis-based Lavender Magazine posted a statement about the murder on its website, which read in part: “The show of grief, anger, and sadness, as well as the subsequent display of community connection, camaraderie, and charity across all of our interlocking local communities —be they people of color, GLBT folk, artists, faith leaders, businesspeople, and more — is a stark reminder of how far we’ve come as a society, and how far we still have to go, especially in regards to remedying systemic injustices that people of color deal with everyday. Healing doesn’t just happen in a day, but Lavender is committed to being part of the healing process and making for a better community.”
Thankfully, Lavender has not been directly negatively impacted by the pandemic nor the violence in its city.
“We have not been affected by the COVID-19 virus — no employees laid off, no furloughs, no wage cuts, no hours cut, no tapping of cash reserves, no use of lines of credit, or corporate investment funds,” said Stephen Rocheford, president and CEO of Lavender. But he noted, “Lavender’s office used to be on the same block where George Floyd was murdered.”
The Washington Blade’s offices are located on a street that was the site of a protest in the nation’s capital.
“Our offices haven't been affected or damaged,” said editor Kevin Naff. “Our photo editor, Michael Key, was covering [the protest] when he was hit by two rubber bullets and tear gas. He was also physically threatened after taking photos of a protester who was committing vandalism.”
At sister publication the Los Angeles Blade, “Our team is working amidst curfew restraints. West Hollywood has a 4 p.m. curfew today with more protests planned, which [news editor] Karen Ocamb is planning to cover,” Naff continued. “This is a fluid situation but as of now we are still publishing print editions in both cities.”
The Blade published an op-ed by columnist Peter Rosenstein calling for the arrest and charging of the three additional officers “who clearly stood by and let Officer Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd.” Those officers were subsequently arrested and charged. "Police officers must be subject to the law and held accountable. We must demand from the overwhelming number of good officers, those who risk their lives every day to protect us, that they speak up when those in their ranks commit a crime.”
New York City’s Gay City News also reported from an epicenter of violent protests. “Thousands hit the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens … for the eighth straight day of protests citywide following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer,” according to a June 5 report. “In Brooklyn, cops again arrested peaceful protesters for violating Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 8 p.m. curfew, and several demonstrators were repeatedly hit with batons and thrown to the ground as the curfew entered its fourth night.”
Chicago’s Windy City Times has been largely unaffected by the city’s protests, according to Publisher Andrew Davis. The publication’s staff has no office and everyone works from home.
As for the reporting on the ongoing conflict between law enforcement and activists, Davis was direct: “We plan to cover this like we cover everything else — from an LGBTQ+ perspective.”