By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
UPDATE (Aug. 28):
Organizers have cancelled the protest scheduled for 7 p.m. August 31 in response to concerns raised by members of the Rose City T-Girls. Below is a statement from the protest organizers posted to the Facebook event page, which has been left up to provide space for the continuing conversation:
Friday’s planned protest against transphobia has been cancelled pending the organizing of an event that does not conflict with the wishes and needs of the Rose City T-Girls and their ongoing court case.
All of us remain angered by what happened at the P-Club and the wider societal oppression of transgender people in general. We remain committed to addressing this oppression when and wherever it occurs. Please continue to follow this FB event page periodically on any future actions and or PQ Monthly.
ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 27):
Members of a local branch of the International Socialist Organization have planned an Aug. 31 protest of the P Club’s alleged discrimination against members of the Rose City T-Girls. But members of the group of trans* women, as well as attorney Beth Allen, are discouraging community members from participating in any protest of the bar, citing concerns about how such an action could impact the investigation currently underway with the Bureau of Labor and Industry. (Read more about the discrimination investigation here.)
RCTG member Susan Miller said in a Facebook comment that while she appreciates the show of support, she won’t be participating in the protest on the advisement of attorney Beth Allen, who is representing six members of the group in the BOLI case.
“When we heard about this we checked with our attorney to get her opinion so we could pass it on to our group members and this is her reply…. ‘Urge people not to go. It will give him a stage to put on an act that he doesn’t discriminate. It will not help you. He couldn’t ask for a better ‘problem.’ And media lapping it all up with him personally serving drinks to everyone. Ask them to use their energy in some other fashion,'” Miller wrote.
Protest co-organizer Tim Hurwitz clarified online that the protest would not involve spending money at the establishment and speculated that Allen’s urging was directed at the RCTG, not the community at large. Allen has not yet been reached for comment.
“Do not worry: we have already discussed this and the attorneys are urging that the group of women who were directly involved in the case not participate in this protest. That’s all. There is not, and would not make sense for there to be, an ultimatum against the entire community,” Hurwitz wrote, adding that the protest was meant to encompass transphobia broadly, and not just the alleged P Club discrimination.
Allen says that while her initial objections were in response to a protest that encouraged people to enter the bar and insist on being served, she is still concerned about a general protest outside the establishment for two reasons.
“The promoters of the protest didn’t bother to ask my clients whether they thought it was a good idea. I think that’s always a bad idea when purporting to be an ally — instead of asking to help saying ‘This is how I’m going to help.’ An ally is someone who says, “How can I help?” Allen says. “I don’t think a protest is a right thing at this time under these circumstances.”
Allen made clear that she is not opposed to protests in general — she’s been known to participate in them on occasion — but that such action wasn’t the best approach in this case. Because BOLI is in the middle of its investigation, she suggests focusing on positive ways to affirm the alleged victims and letting the state do it’s job in upholding the law.
“That’s why we got these laws put in place,” Allen says, adding that if BOLI finds that the P Club committed an unlawful act and is liable, it will send a message to the business community about discrimination. “We have the law, we have the State assisting us in persuing this wrongdoing.”
RCTG founder Cassandra Lynn echoed this sentiment. She likewise expressed concern that the protest could harm the case, which is currently in BOLI’s hands:
The [Aug. 31] protest was going to be a perfect chance for Chris Penner to show in front of the media he doesn’t discriminate by allowing the protesters inside and him serving them drinks. One of our claim[s] to fame with this case is that we never caused a problem and that we weren’t that kind of people. Though the intention of a protest may be peaceful in nature, it only takes one bad apple to make things get out of hand.This case is in the hands of BOLI who are clearly backing us up. We want them to file official charges before anything happens publicly towards the P Club… The main reason we dont need a protest is the State of Oregon is on our side already. We dont need help convincing anyone. It’s best to just let the pieces fall into place.If anything, as Jan mentioned in her post, people can join us at our Friday night get togethers and spend money in a place that is supporting us.