Hundreds expected at Sunday march
In the wake of the weekend stabbing of a gay UA student, a march protesting homophobia will wind its way through the campus area this Sunday and culminate with a speak-out event on the University of Arizona Mall.
UA assistant English professor David Robinson and several members of the Tucson community - including the UA Pride Alliance and the local chapter of the gay rights organization, Lesbian Avengers - are planning the march, which will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Catalina Park on North Fourth Avenue and East Second Street.
The march route will include the Rainbow Planet Coffee House, 606 N. Fourth Ave., which is where the attack occurred.
Lesbian Avengers' member Dace Park said demonstrators are encouraged to bring flowers to drop on the street in front of the cafe. Park added that the flowers should be free of wire or cellophane wrappings to keep the mess to a minimum.
Both Park and Robinson hope the demonstration will draw a large crowd of supporters.
"We're optimistic we'll have several hundred," said Park. "We're hoping for several more."
Robinson has similar aspirations.
"I'm hoping we may very well have more than a thousand," he said.
One of the attendees may be UA President Peter Likins, whom the march organizers have invited to participate. However, Robinson said Likins is being invited only to march, not to speak.
"It's felt that deeds, not words, are needed from him," said Robinson.
Robinson said Likins should march to show his support and learn more about the needs of the gay community, which Robinson said are not being met with actions such as Likins' refusal to allow same-sex partner benefits to gay UA employees, and the attacks Arizona state Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, has made on homosexual course content.
The stabbing victim, a 20-year-old philosophy junior, may be in attendance as well. But if he is not, he will send a representative to read a statement, Robinson said.
At the speak-out, participants may share their experiences with anti-gay hostility and other issues regarding homophobia - physical and non-physical - as a way of educating all attendees on the connection between violence, such as the stabbing and subtler forms of intolerance, said Robinson.
Sunday's demonstration should be promoted as a march and speak-out, rather than a vigil, because of the sad and subdued tones a vigil implies, Robinson said.
"Personally, my experience with vigils has been that they either explicitly or implicitly disallow anger," he said. "There are many, many of us that are enraged at the incident that occurred and homophobic violence in general."
Robinson said he is also "enraged" at the stabbing, and that the anger he and other people are feeling can be healthy as a positive agent of change. However, non-angry contemplation is also allowed, said Robinson.
"People at this event will be allowed to have whatever reaction," he said. "We ought to be able to have a wide gamut of emotions."
Park said she expects the demonstration to be a calm and safe one. Peacekeepers will be on hand to protect marchers from potholes and minor injuries as well as hecklers - though Park said she does not expect any.
"We expect it to be a peaceful march," Park said. "There's no reason why it shouldn't be."
In addition to participating in Sunday's activities, Robinson said there are more ways to be actively involved in the issue.
A grand jury could formally indict the attacker, 37-year-old Gary Grayson, as early as today. Though Grayson was arrested for aggravated assault, Robinson said people should call the Pima County Attorney's Office and suggest Grayson's charges be increased to attempted murder.
Park said citizens should not badger the office with calls, but politely request the charges be stepped up.
"We want them to know this is a very serious issue and should be treated as such," she said.
"We don't see this as an isolated incident," Park added. "We see this as symptomatic of an environment of hate and discrimination."