Press

National LGBT organizations call for end to police harassment of Soulforce Equality Riders

Date: 
March 23, 2007

Send letter to mayor of Clinton, Miss., in light of recent actions

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1465
(Cell) 917.704.6358
rsklar@theTaskForce.org

WASHINGTON, March 23 — A coalition of national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups today sent a letter to Mayor Rosemary Aultman of Clinton, Miss., in response to recent police harassment of Soulforce Equality Riders. The coalition included the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Log Cabin Republicans and the Human Rights Campaign. Leaders also placed calls to Mayor Aultman’s office.

Equality Riders seek to engage in conversation with students, faculty and administrators at colleges and universities with policies that ban the enrollment of openly LGBT students.

The text of the letter follows.


March 23, 2007

Rosemary G. Aultman, Mayor
City of Clinton
300 Jefferson St
Clinton, MS 39056

Sent via Facsimile Transmission: 601.924.0113

Dear Mayor Aultman,

We are writing to strongly protest the recent actions of your police department toward Soulforce and insist that all intimidation and harassment against its members end immediately.

On March 20, Clinton police officials informed Soulforce that its members would be cited if they “attempt[ed] to gather or travel in a group of four or more” near the campus of Mississippi College. Lt. Thomas R. Ruffin acknowledged that the department’s actions “could be construed as conflicting with constitutional allowances,” but said that Soulforce’s presence in Clinton presented “valid public safety concerns.” This accusation is utterly without merit: Soulforce is enormously well respected across the country and is relentlessly nonviolent. Only after being contacted by the American Civil Liberties Union did the police lift the threat of citation.

Yesterday, as Soulforce members were getting ready to leave the city in their bus, they were persistently harassed by a police officer. The officer ordered the bus to leave town, saying, “Go on and get out of town.” After the bus driver explained that they were waiting on the remainder of the group, he was still forced to move on and threatened with arrest. This happened a total of three times — even when the bus was moved to a space the city previously designated for it.

This behavior is not only intimidating and unlawful, it will cause long-lasting damage to Clinton’s reputation, derail your goal of becoming one of the nation’s premier cities, and is exactly the opposite of what you say on your own Web site — that Clinton is known for its hospitality.

Sincerely,

Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director, Lambda Legal
Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Neil Giuliano, President, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Kate Kendall, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Patrick Sammon, President, Log Cabin Republicans
Joe Solmonese, President, Human Rights Campaign

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. © 2007 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 1325 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. Fax 202.393.2241. TTY 202.393.2284.