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Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people--young and old, gay and straight--loudly protested the passage of Proposition 8 in downtown Los Angeles near City Hall. The peaceful demonstration, organized by a newly-formed group of young gay and lesbian activists called F.A.I.R., was probably the best-attended rally in the past ten days, when spontaneous and organized protests started on Wednesday, November 5. West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran told the protesters, "This is the day we pass the torch to the next generation." They took it, and marched through downtown and over to Hollywood on a very hot and emotionally-charged day.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Proposition 8 protesters marched in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday.

While F.A.I.R. (Freedom-Action-Inclusion-Rights), with the help of more established gay and lesbian organizations in Los Angeles, organized the event, the rally was part of a major grassroots effort called "National Day of Action." It was started by Internet social networker Amy Balliet, a 26-year-old resident of Seattle, who says full marriage equality demonstrations took place in 300 cities in all 50 states in response to California voters approving Proposition 8, the ballot measure that eliminates the right of gays and lesbians to legally marry in the Golden State.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

After over an hour of speeches, marchers headed south on Spring Street and ultimately ended up at the Cornfield, a historic park in downtown Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, at the intersection of First and Spring streets, many politicians, a few celebrities, and other dignitaries, who included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, openly gay LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri Jean, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, actor and F.A.I.R. member Darryl Stephens, and actresses Ricki Lake and Lucy Lawless, spoke to a diverse, gay and straight crowd of children and teenagers, blacks, whites, and Latinos, twenty- and thirty-somethings, and others.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Young participants listened to speeches at the F.A.I.R. rally in downtown Los Angeles.

"I walked around in a daze," said openly gay, African American actor Darryl Stephens, as he recalled the hours after Senator Barack Obama won the presidential election. The next day, however, Stephens said he woke up and "felt somebody had punctured my hope."

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Actor Darryl Stephens spoke at the Proposition 8 demonstration on Saturday.

Last weekend, a Proposition 8 demonstration took place in Silver Lake, which attracted an estimated crowd of 15,000 to 20,000. Saturday's attendance at the F.A.I.R. rally was obviously much larger, with many people from Hollywood and West Hollywood taking the Metro Red Line, one of L.A.'s subway routes, to the site.

Los Angeles Police Department officials, according to the LA Times, were anticipating a crowd of 40,000 people, but the crowd did not appear to reach that number. The starting time--10:30 a.m.--may have been too early for Friday night revelers, and the expectations of the police may have been too high since F.A.I.R. had little time to rustle up that many people. The group had only formed last weekend.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Marchers took to the streets with home-made signs.

The downtown rally was also largely organized through Facebook and other online social networks, which seems to cause hit-or-miss results. Organizers for the Silver Lake March, though, posted and distributed good, old-fashioned flyers in many bars and stores in West Hollywood--in addition to getting the word out through the Internet. Flyers, which may have been circulated, weren't as visible in West Hollywood for yesterday's event.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Protestors slowed traffic on the 101 Freeway during their march route.

A little after 12 p.m., marchers took off for the Cornfield, several miles away, where more speeches were planned. Along the way, many protesters stopped at a 101 Freeway overpass, waving their signs to motorists passing below them. Traffic then slowed at that part of the freeway, with people honking their horns and looking up to see what was happening.

Besides a debut of sorts for F.A.I.R., posters created by Los Angeles-based artist Shepard Fairey were publicly displayed in huge numbers for the first time. Fairey previously made the iconic "Hope" and "Progress" posters of Senator Barack Obama.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

The new, marriage equality poster by Shepard Fairey was on display in downtown LA.

After the second speaker program at the Cornfield was canceled due to apparent technical problems, protesters walked back to City Hall, with many of them continuing the march to Hollywood. Proposition 8 protesters are now organizing through the Internet a massive march on the state's capitol in Sacramento.

Queer Town: Tens of Thousands Protest Prop. 8 at LA City Hall

Tens of thousands protesters gathered in downtown LA on Saturday.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.