Nazis invade Drag Queen Story Hour in Ohio, with Republican politician’s support / by David Hill

With pistols on their hips and swastika flags in hand, Nazis, Proud Boys, and other white supremacists invaded a Drag Story Hour in Wadsworth, Ohio, to stir up hatred. | Photos via Twitter

Originally published in the People’s World on March, 17, 2023


WADSWORTH, Ohio—The playground equipment stood empty at a public park here on Saturday, March 11, as more than a dozen Nazis stood at attention and bellowed in unison multiple rounds of full-throated “Sieg heil!” salutes, aping Hitler’s legions of 80 years ago.

They were part of a large crowd that had gathered ostensibly for the “protection” of children who were there to participate in a reading group. The supposed threat endangering the kids of Wadsworth? Drag queens armed with children’s storybooks.

Approximately 50 participants gathered for the “Rock and Roll Drag Queen Story Hour,” which included a group reading of a children’s novel, “Elle the Humanist,” followed by “a Rock-n-Roll celebration of drag and life’s beautiful diversity,” according to the event’s organizers. The event was planned as a fundraiser for a local LGBTQ charity in remembrance of the victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs last November.

Wadsworth City Council had granted a permit for the event earlier in the week, although the council president subsequently suggested that legislation would soon be introduced to prohibit “adult-type entertainment that involves children” in the future.

Wadsworth Brewing Company had withdrawn its commitment to host the event after receiving multiple threats, leading the organizers to apply for a permit to gather at Wadsworth Memorial Park.

The reading group and drag event was met by the organized vitriol of at least 200 fascists, Christian fundamentalists, Proud Boys, Patriot Front, White Lives Matter, and various unaffiliated opponents of LGBTQ rights. Attendees reported a large number of cars with out-of-state license plates in the parking lot.

Both local and national right-wing groups had planned the coordinated intimidation of participants in the Rock and Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour for weeks leading up to the event.

Prominent right-wing organizers included Republican politicians such as Kristopher Anderson, candidate for the Ohio State House of Representatives in 2022. Anderson and his supporters shouted slogans against so-called “grooming” alongside proponents of overt Nazi imagery, open racism, and homophobia. At least one member of Anderson’s group was detained by police after assaulting an LGBTQ rights supporter.

Placed alongside his current work organizing mob intimidation of LGBTQ people, Anderson’s previously stated political positions plainly illustrate the alliance between fascist violence and pro-business policymaking: “Tax climate, regulatory environment, labor laws, and workforce development are all issues for businesses that Kristopher can help address at the State House.”

Local Republican politician Kristopher J. Anderson offered support to the right-wing forces that invaded the event. A prominent Trump supporter, Anderson ran for the state House of Representatives in 2022. | via Twitter

Video captured at the event circulated widely on social media throughout the weekend. Most striking were images of local police standing in defense of a large contingent of white men in red and black outfits carrying a large banner stating “There Will Be Blood” in an elaborate gothic font. The men chanted Nazi slogans and generally displayed belligerent and intimidating behavior for a contingent of cameras.

Other prominent imagery referred to the right-wing mythology of “grooming,” using a variety of homophobic and racist slurs. Before conservatives engineered their fake anti-drag queen hysteria, the term “grooming” was typically only used to refer to the practice of predators who prepared children and other vulnerable people for sexual abuse.

Men in tactical gear circulated throughout the large crowd. Ohio allows the open carry of firearms in many public places; it was unclear how many opponents of the Drag Story Hour may have been armed.

The four-hour demonstration came amidst a coordinated national right-wing campaign targeting the LGBTQ community with intimidation and violence under the auspices of concern for child welfare. Recent survey data suggests that sympathy for these ideas has permeated a large proportion of the Republican voter base, with as many as 45% of Republican voters agreeing with the statement that discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity represent “grooming” behavior.

The violent persecution of homosexuality was one of the first campaigns of the Nazi Party and its supporters after their ascension to power with the support of finance capital in Germany in the 1930s. In addition to the near total destruction of the German LGBTQ community, the Hitler movement galvanized and normalized the use of state violence to dispossess vulnerable individuals and was subsequently extended to an even wider population.


David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Collective in Columbus. He follows labor, housing, policing, and workers’ issues in central Ohio.

LGBTQ people under attack, People’s World stands up and fights back / by C.J.Atkins

Drag shows made illegal. The very mention in classrooms that gay people exist outlawed forever. Trans people barred from employment, housing, or even being able to use a public restroom. Parents who seek gender-affirming health care for their kids prosecuted and jailed for child abuse. Black, brown, and Indigenous trans women dead in the back alleys of big cities. Queer nightclubs riddled with bullets and shut down.

That’s the right wing’s vision for the future of LGBTQ people in America. In Congress and statehouses around the country, Republican lawmakers are putting in overtime to legislate queer people out of existence. Every year, they’re shattering records for the number of new anti-gay or anti-trans bills proposed.

Meanwhile, hate-fueled murderers and heavily-armed gunmen are doing the dirty work out in our communities.

If anyone thought liberation was achieved when marriage equality was won, it’s way beyond time to wake up from that illusion. At People’s World, we know the stakes of the battle for queer survival now raging, and we will never shrink from the fight.

But we need help to keep bringing you the stories of LGBTQ life, love, and struggle here in the U.S. and around the world. Please donate to make sure People’s World can reach its 2023 Spring Fund Drive goal of $125,000.

Where else will you read about drag queens fighting fascism with their art while raising money for the mass shooting victims in Colorado Springs?

What other publication has direct, on-the-ground reports of LGBTQ struggles from every corner of the country—from Michigan to LouisianaCalifornia to D.C.?

Which paper brings you coverage from inside the labor movement about the strategizing underway to combat right-wing threats to LGBTQ people?

Who else is publishing stories featuring Marxist analysis of queer issues while also pointing out their intersection with other struggles like the Black Lives Matter movement and women’s liberation?

People’s World does all that, but to keep doing it, the paper needs the financial support of its readers.

Is there anyone else who puts international solidarity up front in covering the news of LGBTQ victories and setbacks around the globe, including countries like CubaVietnamJapanSingaporeIndonesia, and more?

Where can you turn to for the latest in queer culture, from movies, television, the ballroom, the theaterbooks, and music?

And I guarantee you no other newspaper brings you all of that PLUS the latest in commentaryanalysis, and history of queer liberation from the Communist Party USA? That’s something you’ll find nowhere else.

So, if you enjoy and value the LGBTQ coverage you find only in People’s World, please consider making a donation today.

Even if the pandemic has been declared “officially over,” the impact that the COVID recession had on People’s World’s finances is certainly not over. The paper has survived, but times are still extremely tight. We have to raise $125,000 in our Spring Fund Drive to keep doing this important work. Can you help?

Your donation will help guarantee that the lights stay on at People’s World and that this voice for working class queer liberation keeps on publishing five days a week.

Thank you for your support.

C.J. Atkins

Managing Editor


C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, February 13, 2023, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

While defending against attacks, opportunities emerge to extend trans rights in Maine / Evan Popp

Morgin Dupont, 25, a trans woman, holds up the flag for Transgender and Gender Noncomforming people at a rally for LGBTQI+ rights at Washington Square Park | Yana Paskova, Getty Images

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on January 30, 2023

With the new year has come renewed attacks on transgender kids in Maine.

The assault is coming via bills introduced by Republicans in the state legislature and in the form of campaigns by conservative activists at the local level, including those behind a recall of officials in a western Maine school district who pushed for an inclusive gender identity policy.

Still, with Democrats in control of the legislature as well as the Blaine House and some pro-LGBTQ legislation being introduced this session, advocates are hopeful that bills targeting trans kids will be defeated while measures to increase protections for transgender Mainers will become law. 

“We’re in a place of friction, but I think we’ll see our way through this,” Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine, said. “So I’m positive that we’ll get through this legislative cycle, and I think we’ll end up in a better place.” 

Maine is far from the only state where policies related to trans people will be debated this session. And in some of those states, the situation is much more tenuous, as conservatives across the country have already introduced more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills in 2023, including measures that target the safety of transgender students and their access to health care. The issue has become one front of the national right-wing culture war in schools, which has particularly targeted education on racism and gender identity.

However, Drew noted that trans people have powerful allies, including in the Biden administration and many elected officials in the Maine Legislature as well as the majority of the American people.

“There is good news,” Drew said. “I know it’s hard to say that, but there is good news.” 

Legislation looks to expand trans rights

Drew said she’s excited about a number of bills this session that seek to build on gender equality measures from past legislatures. One such bill that EqualityMaine will be pushing for would allow health care settings to collect data on gender identity and sexual orientation, similar to how information for other protected categories is gathered. 

Drew said such information is important, particularly given what happened during the height of the pandemic, when health data showed that COVID-19 was impacting certain groups — such as Black Mainers — at a higher rate. However, it wasn’t possible to tell how the virus was impacting LGBTQ people, Drew pointed out. 

Another measure the group is advocating for would update Maine Department of Education regulations for schools when it comes to the Maine Human Rights Act, including for trans youth. Drew noted the regulations haven’t been updated for 18 years and that she believes that delay is part of the reason issues related to trans kids are now frequently being debated at the local level. 

“The state has not done their job to update their regulations,” Drew said. “So I think this would be really helpful for schools across the state and for kids and parents to know where they stand in terms of their rights and what schools are expected to do, what the minimum is.”  

Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet, said she is also excited about a couple bills this session. One measure would protect MaineCare coverage for gender affirming care. Gov. Janet Mills’ administration in 2019 issued a rule requiring MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, to provide such care for people. However, leaving that policy as is would make it vulnerable to being rolled back under a future Republican governor hostile to trans rights, Gormley said. As a result, advocates are looking to enshrine health coverage for trans people in statute.  

Gormley added that MaineTransNet will be supporting a couple of bills around forms and documents, pointing out that only about 30% of transgender Mainers have their legal information aligned with their gender identity. The bills the organization is pushing for would improve systems to make sure there’s a universal option for non-binary people across state forms and systems.  

Photo: A chalk drawing of the Transgender Pride Flag | MaineTransNet

Given the national environment targeting transgender people in many states, putting forward measures that create additional protections is crucial, Gormley said. 

“As much as we’re playing defense, I think we also have to be pushing bills that support trans people of all ages,” she said. “It can’t just be that we’re fighting back against this hate, it also has to be that we’re making progress and showing that there’s another side to be had here.”

Along with those bills, Rep. Laurie Osher (D-Orono) is also introducing several measures to improve health care for trans Mainers and to protect access to gender affirming care. One bill would ensure that medical professionals are trained in cultural competency in order to provide adequate care for transgender, intersex and gender diverse people and that such individuals are consulted in the creation of that training. 

In addition, Osher is proposing a sanctuary bill that says Maine wouldn’t cooperate with law enforcement from states that have banned gender affirming care who are investigating people who have sought such treatment in Maine. 

Osher said both bills are based on measures successfully passed in California, adding that she has been in conversation with advocates from groups such as EqualityMaine and MaineTransNet about the legislation.  

“We want all citizens in Maine, all people in Maine, to be treated with dignity,” Osher said. “The bills I’ve put in are about treating people with dignity who have been marginalized and treated poorly … in other states. We don’t want Maine to be one of those states.” 

Challenges remain 

Still, despite the opportunity to make progress on trans rights this session, advocates must also defend against a series of bill titles put forward by Republicans that appear designed to roll back protections for LGBTQ people.

One of those measures, Gormley said, is “An Act to Eliminate Critical Race Theory, Social Emotional Learning and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from School Curricula,” sponsored by Rep. Jeffrey Adams (R-Lebanon). Measures seeking to curb education about diversity and inclusion are typically targeted at teaching about race and gender identity. 

Adams has also introduced a bill title that Gormley said likely seeks to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports in accordance with their gender identity, a retread of a pair of Republican-led measures that lawmakers voted down last session.  

In addition, there are various measures aimed at creating a parental bill of rights, an idea floated by Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage during his 2022 campaign. At a press conference introducing the policy, LePage featured a parent complaining about education on gender identity in schools. 

Another bill proposal, put forward by Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo), would require parental approval for school employees to use a name or pronoun other than a child’s given name and pronouns. That legislation would be in conflict with the Maine Human Rights Act, Gormley said.

Other GOP bills include several that appear aimed at prohibiting or holding school employees liable for medical decisions for children, such as gender-affirming care, without parental approval. Drew said such measures are not based in reality, pointing out that while “schools are trying their best to support students where they are, they’re not providing gender-affirming care.” 

Gormley added that the current debate over parental rights in schools — particularly in relation to trans kids — lacks nuance. 

“An ideal situation is one where the parents are involved, of course that’s what we all want,” she said. “But there are legitimate situations where involving the parents is going to endanger the minor.” 

Photo: Beacon

Both Drew and Gormley added that they see a direct link between the plethora of anti-trans bills introduced in the legislature and the recent campaign in MSAD 17, based in Paris, that resulted in the removal of two school board members who pushed for a gender-inclusive education policy. Voters in the school district earlier this month recalled school board director Sarah Otterson while fellow board member Julia Lester — Maine’s second openly-trans elected official — resigned before the vote. 

Lester and Otterson were targeted over their support for a policy designed to foster a school environment that supported students of all gender identities and gave students the option to talk about their identity with adults at school, with the understanding that such conversations would remain private.  

Drew said she is disappointed by the result of the recall election and said it shows how the issue of trans rights has been politicized. 

“This is a concerted, organized national movement to remove LGBTQ people — especially transgender people and kids and adults who support LGBTQ people — from public schools, from being teachers, from after-school programs,” she said.

Gormley also pointed out that one of the leading advocates of the MSAD 17 recall effort, Republican Rep. John Andrews of Paris, has put forward several bills that worry her, including a measure to allow for the recall of municipal elected officials for any reason — a possible attempt to replicate what happened in Paris around the state. 

The anti-trans measures put forward by Republicans are unlikely to pass Maine’s Democratic-controlled legislature. Still, Gormley said the bills can do lasting damage to trans people, and youth in particular, who are forced to see their very identity questioned and delegitimized by certain elected officials. 

“I still hope that at some point in my life, I will be able to know a generation of queer and trans kids who don’t know what it feels like to have their existence debated in the legislature,” Gormley said. “It hasn’t happened yet. I think we’re going to defeat these — we’ve defeated most of them before. But the debate does real harm.” 


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Club Q killings are part of capitalist violence and hatred / by Colorado May Day Club

With the murderous attack on patrons of Club Q in Colorado Springs, we’ve once again witnessed massive gun violence against innocent people and yet another assault on the rights – and lives – of LGBTQ+ people. This horrific act was committed even as those at the club were observing the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors those whose lives have been taken because of their trans identity.

There seems to be no end to weekly headlines announcing some new such atrocity. Sometimes it’s in distant places, sometimes closer to home. This time, our own comrades in Colorado have lost friends in the latest outrage at Club Q. Whether it’s a school shooting, a murderous club rampage, or fatal domestic violence, the violence hardly seems to pause.

Acts of homophobic and transphobic violence like the one in Colorado Springs are caused by those who empower and encourage anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence throughout the U.S., including many among the powerful in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. They disseminate their message of hatred broadly and are as culpable as those who physically carry out the monstrous attacks.

We stand in strong sympathy with those who were killed and also the wounded and with all their friends and families. We stand in solidarity with those who struggle against gun violence and against those forces that actually encourage it. And we stand steadfastly with the LGBTQ+ community, once again in mourning for those who died and stunned at the number of wounded who survived but with their lives changed forever.

Our solace and strength, we believe, may be found in coming to understand even more surely than before that – even though we seem to make so little progress toward changing things, toward ending the violence and hatred practiced and engendered by capitalism – what we do now and in the future really does make a difference in the big scheme of things.

Often we may be tempted to throw up our hands and quit, to lose heart and retire into a life of sad cynicism and hopelessness, to leave the field of struggle. Yet because of our beliefs, we know in our hearts that the world really can become a far better place if we and our comrades, friends, and allies, all of us, keep up the good fight and never, ever give up. Despite what seems like great evidence to the contrary, we know that if we do not lose heart and keep up our work, we will win.

Capitalism is an immense and mighty force and will never simply leave that field of struggle on its own. The point is that we must continue our work to end and root out capitalism and all the suffering and horror it brings. Until that happens and capitalism is defeated, the hatred and violence that are built into it will prevail. But if we continue our work, then eventually yes, we will win.

It won’t be easy but we already knew that. Those who suffer gun violence against themselves and loved ones, who experience hatred against their sexual identity, who every day have to put up with the destroying greed of capitalism as they earn their wages with racism and sexism thoroughly embedded as part of the capitalist system: all these must know that we are there, both with them and among them. Those who are under attack must come to understand, from our words and our actions, that we stand next to them and that we are among their number and experiencing the same attacks they are experiencing. We must share with others this knowledge we have and help everyone to understand that we really will win a better world.

We are grieving for those who directly experienced the attack in Colorado Springs, for their friends and families, and for all who experience this kind of violence and hatred and all of the many forms of capitalist oppression that victimize our entire society. And knowing that there are more and more vast numbers of us ready to join and continue to fight back and to overcome, we take heart and continue to march forward in this long, long battle.


Communit Party USA, November 26, 2022, https://www.cpusa.org/

Right wing’s anti-LGBTQ hate creates atmosphere for Colorado Springs shooting / C.J. Atkins

Tyrice Kelley, center right, a performer at Club Q, is comforted during a service held at All Souls Unitarian Church following an overnight fatal shooting at the gay nightclub, in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Nov 20, 2022. | P. Seibold / The Gazette via AP

At least five dead. More than two dozen others injured. The LGBTQ community again shattered.

The mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs late Saturday night has echoes of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, where 49 people were murdered. We can only be grateful the damage done by the gunman in this latest incident, Anderson Lee Aldrich, was more limited.

The date of the attack—the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance, honoring the victims of anti-trans violence—seems to have been chosen intentionally.

Reports have it that two people present sprang into action to defend the crowd as bullets tore through the air, disarming the shooter, beating him with his own gun, and restraining him until police arrived.

“It’s an incredible act of heroism,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the Associated Press. Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said, “We owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

Certainly, their resistance should be applauded, but no one out for a night at the bar with friends should have to be on edge, prepared to fight for their lives at any moment.

Seth Stang, a 34-year-old trans man who counts two friends among the dead, said outside a makeshift memorial at Club Q on Sunday:

“It’s like having a bucket of hot water dumped on you…. I’m just tired of running out of places where we can exist safely.”

But that is the reality for queer people in America when a constant bombardment of hatred and scapegoating is rained down on them by the fascist wing of the Republican Party and its Evangelical base.

That point was driven home for this writer just this past summer in small-town Oklahoma, where, for the first time, I saw the host of a drag show wearing a pistol in a holster on his hip. The absurd thing is that such an action didn’t seem unwarranted by anyone present. It was a symbol of the normalization of living in constant fear, like children accustomed to the notion that a school shooting could occur in their classrooms.

Authorities say Aldrich has been tight-lipped since being taken into custody, sharing no hints of his motive. Speculation is of course swirling as to whether family politics might have played a role; his grandfather is California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel, a confirmed MAGA Trumpite.

Voepel cheered on Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt, comparing it to the American Revolutionary War. “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny,” Voepel told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the time. “Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear-in on January 20th.”

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert regularly spews anti-trans and anti-gay hatred.

Even if Voepel’s politics did influence his grandson’s decision to become a mass murderer, the California lawmaker is just one soldier in the right-wing’s army of hate. All the leaders of this fascist movement have blood on their hands after what happened at Club Q.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents Colorado in the House of Representatives, offered her “prayers” Sunday morning. Typical. She has spent years vilifying LGBTQ people, calling Muslim members of Congress “the jihad squad,” celebrating gun culture, and spreading QAnon conspiracy nonsense. But when the violence finally explodes, she pretends to be the caring Christian.

Boebert was intimately involved in the Jan. 6 effort to destroy U.S. democracy. She led a pre-attack tour for one of the groups that invaded the Capitol, and she voted against certifying the 2020 election results. She barely won re-election in the midterms earlier this month, nearly becoming a casualty when the GOP’s “red wave” failed to materialize.

Anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric has been a building block of Boebert’s political career. She called the Equality Act—a bill which would make LGBTQ rights permanent—an effort to enforce the “supremacy of gays, lesbians, and transvestites.”

Boebert says LGBTQ people are “perverting” America and that no kid should be allowed to come out until they are 21. When schools offer LGBTQ-inclusive curricula, she calls it a case of “the Left grooming our kids” sexually. “Take your children to CHURCH, not drag bars,” she tweeted.

The rogues’ gallery of Republican hatemongers includes many more besides Boebert, though. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, determined to out-Trump Trump, pushed his “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law just months ago, making it illegal to mention sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. He’s almost guaranteed to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

The right-wing propaganda machine amplifies and repeats the hatred of these elected officials. Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham regularly make anti-trans and anti-gay hit jobs a feature of their programs. “Liberals are sexually grooming elementary students,” scream the TV headlines. “Puberty blockers are not healthcare.”

The constant promotion of a political agenda saturated with the demonization of a particular group and then the outbreak of violence against that group cannot be separated. One begets the other—just look at the history of fascism.

There is a direct correlation between the far-right, Evangelical wing of the Republican Party waging a “culture war” against trans kids and drag queens and the shooting that happened in Colorado Springs. The leaders of the GOP helped cause this.

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday, referring to Boebert and others in the GOP, “You have played a major role in elevating anti-LGBT+ rhetoric and anti-trans lies while spending your time in Congress blocking even the most common-sense gun safety laws. You don’t get to ‘thoughts and prayers’ your way out of this. Look inward and change.”

But we have no reason to expect Boebert and the rest to change their ways. Their entire careers have been built on this kind of hatred and division. As for gun laws, with a Republican majority set to take charge of the House in January, there will be no movement on that issue, either.

The rainbow flag flies at half-mast with a black mourning banner attached. | AP

But even the gun laws already on the books can only work if local law enforcement and prosecutors enforce them. A year and a half ago, Aldrich, this weekend’s shooter, was arrested for threatening his mother with a bomb. The entire neighborhood had to be evacuated, and police spent hours negotiating with Aldrich to convince him to surrender.

But did prosecutors charge him with kidnapping or menacing? Apparently not. And did authorities trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law, an ordinance allowing them to seize the weapons of persons deemed a danger to themselves or others? No. Aldrich was allowed to keep the guns and ammunition he possessed when he took his mother captive.

No one can say whether triggering the red flag law against Aldrich would have prevented his attack on Club Q with an AR15-style assault rifle, but there’s the possibility five lives might have been saved.

Today, we mourn the lives lost in yet another mass murder. Six years after the Pulse massacre, the amount of work to be done to combat the hatred of the right is even greater.

The Equality Act still hasn’t made it out of Congress, stalled in the Senate since February 2021. Anti-trans and anti-gay bills litter the agendas of state legislatures across the country. Too many transphobic, homophobic, racist, and Islamophobic politicians and preachers still have platforms to spread their hatred.

“I could have lost my life—over what?” asked survivor Joshua Thurman, who hid in a dressing room to escape the gunman Saturday night. “What was the purpose? We were just enjoying ourselves. We weren’t out harming anyone. We were in our space, our community, our home.”

But this is not just a community of victims. Queer people—in all their racial, ethnic, national, sexual, and gender diversity—are also fighters. We have to be in order to survive.

While Republicans like Boebert and DeSantis mimic figures like Hitler and Goebbels, we should look to the queer anti-fascists who fought back against these Republican role models. People like Willem Arondeus, an openly gay member of the anti-Nazi resistance in German-occupied Holland during World War II. Because of his sexuality, for decades his name rarely appeared in the history books.

However, Arondeus was one of the most dedicated and creative organizers of the Dutch Underground. In 1943, he and a group of resistance fighters—including other gay and lesbian comrades—blew up a public records building containing documents that the Gestapo used to track down Dutch Jews and other targeted groups.

Willem Arondeus, a queer anti-fascist fighter in the anti-Nazi underground in the Netherlands during World War II. At his execution, he defiantly declared: ‘Homosexuals are not cowards.’ | United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Arrested and put on trial, Arondeus remained defiant. His message to the fascists just before they executed him: “Homosexuals are not cowards.”

That is still true today, as the two courageous Club Q patrons who took down Aldrich in the midst of his shooting spree showed. Queer people are not cowards, and we will unite with other oppressed people and allies to take down those who want to commit violence against us. And using our ballots, we will take down those who encourage that violence—in 2024 and every time the polls are open.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, November 21, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Maine Opinion: LePage’s hateful plot to undermine public education in Maine

Top photo: Former Gov. Paul LePage | Beacon 

Originally published in the Beacon, https://mainebeacon.com/

It’s no secret that Paul LePage is no fan of public education. As governor he called Maine teachers “a dime a dozen” and told an audience of business people that “if you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck — you can go to the public school.” 

LePage has always been upfront about his obsession with privatizing and defunding public schools. He has called for vouchers that would allow for education funding to be diverted to subsidize private religious schools, home schooling and for-profit online education.

As governor, he ignored the 2004 voter-mandated law to fund the state’s share of education at 55% (Gov. Janet Mills has finally honored that commitment) and shifted millions of dollars in costs onto local school districts. The former governor also applauded a recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Maine’s law banning public funding for religious schools, stating that it was “time to let the parents decide their child’s future, not educational bureaucrats.”

The former governor’s fondness for private religious schools is rooted in his own experience attending parochial school in Lewiston, where he claims the combination of strict discipline and corporal punishment made him a better person.

“We don’t have that in public schools. So faith-based schools have a different way of teaching, and it worked for me,” he once said in a radio interview in 2012. 

“It wasn’t the religious part of it that was good; it was the brothers being stern and — look at my knuckles — they still show that they were hit a few times,” LePage added.

Rather than addressing the key factors that worsen academic performance — like social and economic conditions, poverty, unequal school funding and lack of early childhood education — LePage and his fellow school privatizers are more interested in putting all of the blame solely on teachers, school boards and administrators for low student achievement. Instead of improving public schools, LePage seeks to punish them by diverting public education money to private schools. This further reduces the amount of funding available for local public schools and disadvantages low-income students and children with disabilities and higher needs. As disability advocates point out, private and religious schools can legally reject students with special needs and voucher programs don’t cover expenses like transportation and other services those students need.

The racist roots of the school choice movement

Having more educational options sounds like a positive thing, but in reality studies show that this doesn’t improve student achievement overall. Instead, it further balkanizes and segregates the student body by allowing more elite schools to cherry pick the most privileged and highest achieving students who have more resources to supplement private school educations. This is no accident.

As Duke University historian Nancy MacLean has documented, the “school choice” movement was a direct reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools in 1954. School vouchers were developed by Southern states to avoid court-ordered racial integration and allow white parents to send their children to private schools known as “segregation academies” that could discriminate based on the color of one’s skin.

Based on extensive archival research, MacLean has exposed how the conservative economist Milton Friedman “taught white supremacists a more sophisticated…court-proof way to preserve Jim Crow” by providing a justification grounded in the free market ideology. Friedman argued that breaking the “government monopoly” over education would promote “competition.”

The school choice movement was later picked up by well-funded conservative think tanks and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded bill mill that creates “model legislation” for Republican state legislators. LePage, who was deeply involved with ALEC as governor, described himself as a fan of Friedman and even once declared July 31 to be “Milton Friedman Day” in Maine, citing the economist’s support for “school choice.”

Creative Commons via Allison Shelley, The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

But despite a decades-long corporate-funded effort to undermine public education, polls consistently show Americans broadly support it and overwhelmingly reject school privatization schemes. That’s why school privatizers have been diligently working to erode confidence in public education by demonizing teachers and stoking fear and paranoia about the teaching of LGBTQ content and “critical race theory,” or “CRT,” an academic concept addressing institutional racism that is generally not taught in K-12 schools.

This latest manufactured moral panic can be traced to a right-wing propagandist named Christopher Rufo of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who launched the war against CRT and supposed “grooming” of students by sexually predatory public school teachers. Rufo uses CRT as a catch-all term to describe any lessons that include studies of race relations and racial equity that make white people uncomfortable. In capitalizing on white racial anxiety in reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, Rufo says he purposely uses the term “critical race theory” because it’s the “perfect villain” and comes off as “hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist [and] anti-American” to average white middle-class Americans.

LePage and the bigoted anti-CRT mob

In his campaign appearances, LePage has made it clear that he will continue the war on public education by putting gag rules on teachers and censoring what students can read. As he told an audience last year, “I can’t wait to attack the school system, because man, this critical race theory. They’re taking down statues, burning down buildings, killing Americans.”

Earlier this month LePage echoed calls from the far-right when he said he wanted to remove “pornography” from school — a label anti-public school crusaders have used to describe books that contain LGBTQ subject matter — and hinted at pushing legislation to support efforts by parents to ban books.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve seen one here in Hampden and one down south in Bonny Eagle, where people were threatened to be arrested, thrown out of meetings. That is inappropriate,” he told an audience at Husson University. “So, the governor’s office’s role is to pass legislation that allows school boards to hear from the parents, and the parents and the school board should determine what goes into the libraries.”

LePage is apparently referring to the antics of a far-right agitator named Shawn McBreairty, who has been repeatedly banned from entering a number of schools across the state after spending the past two years harassing teachers and school boards over CRT and books containing LGBTQ subject matter. McBreairty first received national notoriety after receiving a criminal trespass order from SAD 51 schools — which encompasses schools in Cumberland and North Yarmouth — for repeatedly violating district rules. 

In 2020, McBreairty became convinced that the school was calling residents of Cumberland “white supremacists” and teaching “critical race theory” after it released a statement denouncing white supremacy and committing to racial equity in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In violation of school rules, McBreairty padlocked a sign to a school fence, disrupted numerous school board meetings and distributed flyers denouncing school officials to Greely High School students. At one point he even put a billboard-sized sign of a school board member’s face on his lawn that he claimed was surrounded by rat traps.

McBreairty cast himself as a free speech martyr in an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, implying, falsely, that he was prohibited from attending his daughter’s graduation for battling with the school for holding what he described as “anti-white training.”

After that appearance, McBreairty rocketed to right-wing stardom and became a chapter leader of the “No Left Turn Education,” one of the largest organizations fear mongering about racial equity in schools. The group and its founder have compared educators to Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler and claimed that “black bigotry towards whites” is a “very real problem.” But McBreairty was too much of a loose cannon even for that group. No Left Turn later fired him in 2021 after he pled guilty to improperly influencing a Cumberland school official by threatening to release a recording of the deceased father of a school board member if they didn’t resign.

McBreairty on Fox News | Image via video

Since then, McBreairty has been working as the special projects director for former state Rep. Larry Lockman’s white supremacist organization, known as the Maine First Project. Lockman has spent the past 40 years attacking LGBTQ rights and people of color. Lockman, who once wrote a homophobic book titled “The Aids Epidemic: A Citizens’ Guide To Protecting Your Family And Community From The Gay Plague,” regularly promotes white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theories and accuses pro-immigrant lawmakers of waging a “war on whites.” LePage has long supported Lockman and his hateful agenda, having endorsed him for state senate and stood beside him during his campaign roll out in 2019.

Most disturbingly, McBreairty and Lockman frequently name individual teachers in their defamatory accusations on conservative radio shows, podcasts, newsletters and on social media. One of McBreairty’s favorite targets is 2022 “Maine Teacher of the Year” Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. Students have described Stoyanova as passionate about instilling a love of learning and making all students feel valued and accepted. 

“In Ms. Stoyanova’s classroom, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel loved,” former student Roz O’Reilly told the Bangor Daily News. 

However, McBreairty, who doesn’t have any children in Hampden schools (or in any K-12 schools), has accused Stoyanova of “hyper-sexualizing” students and promoting CRT because she released a reading list for students that included Black and LGBTQ authors.

Ironically, McBreairty and Maine First Project actually promoted a child sex offender whose  transphobic positions they agreed with. Last spring, Maine First Project platformed a self-described “ex-transgender woman” who is a convicted child sex offender and a life time registrant on the sex offender registry.

Fighting back against the anti-teacher witch hunt

Fortunately, McBreairty and Lockman have been generally unsuccessful in taking over school boards, as right-wing cranks who oppose diversity, equity and inclusion have fared poorly in Maine. As one recent poll shows, most parents like their public schools and teachers and support them by wide margins.

However, the fury and fearmongering of a vocal right-wing minority is having a meaningful impact with conservative voters. One recent poll found that while Democratic support for public schools has increased during the pandemic, Republican confidence in public schools has plummeted to an all-time low. Last spring, Maine Republican Party convention delegates even passed McBreairty’s “Don’t Say Gay” resolution to ban CRT and sex education in schools and limit what school staff can say about gender and sexuality. 

Free public education is one of our most valuable institutions and a cornerstone of our democracy. Its mission is to provide every young person in the nation with an equitable, inclusive and quality education that fosters a life-long love of learning and gives students the knowledge they need to be active, informed participants in the democratic process. While public education may not completely live up to its ideals, we need to continue working to strengthen and improve it for future generations of young learners.

Our educators pursue teaching not to get rich but because they have a passion to shape young minds. It’s not an easy job, though. It involves providing differentiated instruction for diverse learners, endless paperwork, early mornings and late nights preparing lessons, disciplining students, dealing with bullying and problems at home, and spending money out of one’s own pocket for classroom materials due to lack of funding.

The stress of working through the pandemic along with the constant smears, personal attacks and demonization of their profession is driving good teachers out, with more than a half-million leaving the profession since the beginning of 2020. Although these far-right activists are small in number, they have become very influential in our politics and it’s clear that if LePage is elected governor, he will continue to empower them and legitimize their bigoted grievances. 

If you value public education, racial justice, LGBTQ rights and the separation of church and state, sitting back and rolling your eyes at these antics is no longer an option. We need to organize and fight back against this elitist, hateful agenda and send LePage back to Florida in November.


Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

Commentary: On transphobia / by Miranda Lynch

Recently, right-wing and liberal media have been attacking trans people in increasingly vicious ways. How can we analyse this from a left-wing viewpoint?

     In 1919 Lenin said the following in a speech on anti-Semitism: “The hate of the workers and peasants, the landowners and capitalists tried to divert against the Jews. In other countries, too, we often see the capitalists fomenting hatred against the Jews, in order to blind the workers, to divert their attention from the real enemy of the working people: capital.”

     In Labour in Irish History, Connolly wrote the following: “Hence the bourgeois press and politicians incessantly strive to inflame the working-class mind to fever heat upon questions outside the range of their own class interests. War, religion, race, language, political reform, patriotism—apart from whatever intrinsic merits they may possess—all serve in the hands of the possessing class as counter-irritants, whose function it is to avert the catastrophe of social revolution by engendering heat in such parts of the body politic as are the farthest removed from the seat of economic enquiry, and consequently of class consciousness on the part of the proletariat.”

     While anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, transphobia, sectarianism, hatred against refugees etc. are unique struggles that should certainly not be compared directly, the tactics of the ruling class are far from unique each time. Again and again we see the ruling classes exploit bigotry and prejudice, to divide the working class and to distract workers so they don’t examine their place in society and become class-conscious.

     The goal is to divide the working class, by positioning trans people as outside the working class, and claiming that the interests of trans people are somehow opposed to working-class interests. We can see in the areas of housing, health and employment that this could not be further from the truth.

     According to research by Stonewall, one in four trans people in Britain have experienced homelessness. Trans people are also likely to be living in a precarious or unsafe housing situation because of discrimination by family members or flatmates.

     The waiting-list for trans health care in Ireland at the National Gender Service in Loughlinstown is at present between 2½ and 3 years. This is a symptom of an underfunded HSE but also of a “gatekeeping” protocol which requires trans people to prove their transness and increases waiting-lists further.

     On the employment side, precarious work has become increasingly common, especially among young people. Flexible or temporary contracts and bogus self-employment constructions put trans and LGBT people at risk of employment discrimination, as their bosses can easily reduce their hours or fire them.

     For housing, health and employment we can thus see that trans people are hit by the double whammy of discrimination and economic issues. As socialists we should use our strength in this area and push for public housing, better public health, and an end to precarious employment contracts.

     However, we must not limit ourselves to strict economism. Nor should we accuse trans people of dividing the movement when they stand against their own oppression. We should stand with the trans and LGBT community against cynical attacks on them from right-wing media and politicians. Most importantly, we must bring the working class together and unite against all forms of oppression.


Miranda Lynch writing for Socialist Voice, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Ireland.

Socialist Voice, July 4, 2022, https://socialistvoice.ie/

Commentary: “We are not done”: Policy, protections, and the people’s struggle for Pride / by Aimee Rickman

The rainbow flag waving in the wind at San Francisco’s Castro District | Photo: Benson Kua, Wikimedia Commons

June is Pride Month. It is a time to celebrate. It’s also a time to remember the struggle for equal rights, a history we are continually encouraged to forsake, fragment, and forget.

Far-reaching state laws criminalize teachers who dare break hegemonic silences to “say gay” to students and otherwise acknowledge facts and U.S. history. Legislators capitalize on poverty to enlist constituents in incriminating neighbors, including those providing youth rare support in familyschoolsand community.

We must remember: We have been here before.

Many times.

“Do Not Flaunt”

Florida repealed antidiscrimination ordinances ensuring gay and lesbian citizens rights, sparking cookie-cutter activism nationwide. Championing the repeal was Save Our Children (SOC), a national coalition claiming that mention of non-heterosexual relationships corrupts youth.

According to SOC, lesbian and gay people are “deviant” threats to families and to religious freedom who “recruit and molest children” and are demanding special rights. In her autobiography, SOC’s figurehead leader explained:

They can hold any job, transact any business… so long as they do not flaunt their homosexuality and try to establish role models for the impressionable young people” (p. 62).

This leader was Anita Bryant, evangelical celebrity spokesperson for multinationals including Florida orange juice, Kraft, and Coca Cola.

The year: 1977. The country reeled from a recently-ended corrupt presidency, corrupt war, and oil crisis-based recession that came on the heels of a nation-wide push for civil rights. Seeking power amid destabilization, right-wing forces doubled-down on a historically successful unifying tactic: dehumanizing minorities.

Origin Story

Years earlier, New Yorkers in Greenwich Village stood up against state-sanctioned terrorism focused on the local LGBTQ+ community.

Building upon the activism of anti-racist and LGBTQrights organizations, outcast patrons of New York’s Stonewall Inn gay tavern banded together to oppose what was expected to be yet another routine police raid aimed to publicly humiliate and persecute those claiming community around queerness.

Indeed, at the time, New York City denied liquor licenses to establishments serving queer clientele. This helped the powerful profit financially from corrupt kickbacks, and politically from justified arrests of marginalized nonconformists.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, rather than allow the inevitable, some in the Stonewall Inn resisted, collectively refusing to be labeled unlawful deviants.

Instead of accepting continued brutal oppression, some said no. Led by Black and Latinx self-identified drag queens, they occupied the Inn, calling for help to onlookers while being arrested. Why don’t you guys do something!” Others joined them outside, filling Christopher Street with demonstrations, riotsuprisings. For six days, people protested normalized harassment, criminalization, and police violence the LGBTQ+ community was forced to endure under mainstreamed right-wing heteroprejudice, transphobia, and bigoted hatred.

Today, we commemorate June as Pride Month in honor of our Stonewall ancestors who fought systemic oppression to demand basic civil rights for LGBTQ+ people.

We celebrate their brave solidarity and struggle against dehumanizing injustice as they pushed the nation to fulfill fundamental promises. We honor the legacy of this ongoing chapter in U.S. history as it is buried by the same repressive forces fought in 1969 that codified state discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the 1977 backlash.

“Equal Protection of the Laws”

Within a democratic framework, the Stonewall patrons’ protests make perfect sense. Since 1868, the U.S. has promised equality to all. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Constitution ensures citizens “equal protection of the laws.” Nevertheless, in 1969, it remained legal to refuse jobs, housing, healthcare, goods and services, and other core privileges and immunities to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was typical to face months of arrest or institutionalization and vote-disqualifying felony charges from gathering while gay.

Like those marginalized for their ethnicity, sex, race, or religion, LGBTQ+ citizens received abridged political, economic, and material protections in 1969 that belie even what strict originalists admit should occur under the Constitution.

Despite improvements, this lack of equal protection continues today. Adding to the Constitution, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights ActSection 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, and the Fair Housing Act provide national standards for inclusivity. They also offer loopholes for states to get around federal regulations requiring equal protections.

Right-Wing States’ Rights

The Transgender Law Center’s National Equality Map reports more than half of U.S. states rank “low” or “harmful” in consideration of legislative policy advancing LGBTQ+ equality. And hard-won civil rights legislation is being eroded by those seeking to maintain austere inequities required for optimal capitalist profiteering.

According to Human Rights Campaign, 2021 set the record for the most anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation passed in U.S. history. That record may break again; the ACLU documented more than 150 bills seeking to undermine basic protections for LGBTQ+ people considered this year by U.S. lawmakers. These include allowing citizens to use personal beliefs to exclude others from rights they freely enjoy.

While Illinois offers important antidiscrimination protections, proposed legislation from surrounding states cast a sweepingly regressive net restricting rights. Iowa’s Republican-backed religious exemption bill HF 170 would exempt those who oppose birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender people from federal antidiscrimination requirements in employment, healthcare, adoption, restroom access, hate speech, and other areas.

Couched as “protection of the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions” the bill’s narrow list of eligible beliefs and convictions clarifies its real intention: legalizing special rights to far-right authoritarian bigots.

Local Pride

Legislation bounds rights. But discriminatory bills need not pass to discriminate. Inequity is affirmed through even unsuccessful state-sanctioned threats. A tsunami of proposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in a society trumpeting equality for all proclaims:

We are superior. You are lesser, and unsupported.

This, of course, stigmatizes and damages people. Driven by disinvestment and despair, youth suicide rates in the U.S. were astronomical even prior to Covid-19, and the Trevor Project finds LGBTQ youth four times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide. Transgender youth are twice as likely as cis LGBQ youth to have attempted suicide in the past year.

Threatened discrimination also engenders shame, alienation, and fear right-wing extremists have long used to consolidate power. Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat identifies it as a core tyrannical tactic of demagogues.

“There are folks getting elected and making their whole careers based off of anti-LGBTQ stances” explains Nicole Frydman, Director of Operations of Uniting Pride (UP) Center of Champaign County, the only LGBTQ+ resource center of its kind in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. These anti-inclusive stances were crafted to spread nationwide, as in 1977. Now, however, social media help obscure profiteers’ backing of hateful, inequity-stoking rhetoric.

As they reach out to promote free support groups for youth and adults, educational trainings, and programs such as the Pride Fest and Queer Prom to the community, UP Center staff confront disparaging anti-LGBTQ+ comments on their social media platforms. Recently, this has shifted form. “We’ve seen the word ‘groomer’ coming up more and more,” Frydman said.

“Groomer” is a shaming slur used to criminally malign teachers by those pushing Texas’s and Florida’s recent anti-LGBTQ+, anti-history, school privatizing legislation. It is Anita Bryant’s “role models for the impressionable young people” 2.0., embodying SOC’s defaming lie that queer people “recruit and molest children.”

“Groomer” is the charge of youth moral corruption issued to condemn and kill Socrates tied to those of the witch-hunt, documented by Silvia Federici as a brutal social dagger of patriarchy and privatization. It carries from the South and the past dehumanizing whisper-campaign propaganda undermining caring professionals’ ability to be deemed worthy of respect, employment, and rights regardless of legislation.

“This is not the kind of thing we have seen before,” Frydman said.

That we’re seeing this locally… really highlights how conversations happening in other places have a direct impact here.

Illinois is recognized for institutionally advancing LGBTQ+ equality. But, as history shows, sanctioned right-wing anti-democratic authoritarianism knows no bounds. Much work remains. “We’re not done,” Frydman states of the UP Center’s efforts, channeling the spirit of Stonewall.

We are far from done.


CU Pride Fest will be October 1. Contact the UP Center for support, or to support their work: www.unitingpride.org


Aimee Rickman is an educator, activist, organizer, ethnographer of youth and social technologies, director of the Youth & Social Media Research Lab, and author of Adolescence, Girlhood, and Media Migration: U.S. Teens’ Use of Social Media to Negotiate Offline Struggles (Lexington, 2018). She has a related piece out now in Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Societyhttps://tinyurl.com/draimeerickman

MR Online, June 10m 2022, https://mronline.org/

Maine News: Dems back progressive reforms in platform but protesters say party fell short on tribal rights / by Evan Popp

Top photo: Gov. Janet Mills outside the Maine Democratic Convention over the weekend | Photo via Maine Democrats on

Maine Democrats finalized their party platform at a convention over the weekend in Bangor, including some progressive policy principles such as the right to health care, housing, food and reproductive freedom but also drawing the ire of youth advocates who pointed out the party’s failure to pass a bill recognizing the sovereignty of the Wabanaki tribes this past legislative session. 

The convention comes as Maine — and the rest of the country — is preparing for a pivotal midterm contest in November. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills will face a difficult reelection battle against conservative Trump supporter Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden will likely be up against Republican Bruce Poliquin in a race for Maine’s Second Congressional District. 

Around the state, legislators will also face reelection in November. Progressives are hoping to gain ground in Augusta but Republicans have their sights set on breaking the Democratic stronghold in the State House. 

Against that backdrop, Democrats gathered to set their policy agenda and listen to speeches from party leaders such as Mills, Golden, U.S. Rep Chellie Pingree, Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau and state Senate President Troy Jackson.

“So much of what we value so deeply is on the ballot,” Mills said in a speech at the convention, Spectrum News reported. “The right to affordable health care, including safe and legal abortion, the right to a great education for every child in Maine regardless of their ZIP code.”

“We won’t go back,” the governor said at multiple points. 

Tribal sovereignty a point of contention 

One of the most powerful moments of the event, however, took place outside the convention hall, where around two dozen youth leaders held a demonstration Saturday calling for Democrats in Maine to fully support recognizing the sovereignty of the Wabanaki tribes. 

Specifically, the youth groups rallied around LD 1626, a bill the legislature considered this session that would have ensured that tribes in Maine are treated like other federally-recognized Indigenous nations around the country. Advocates wrote chalk messages in support of Wabanaki rights and talked with elected officials who were headed into the convention about the importance of the measure.

Despite receiving massive grassroots support, that bill was opposed by Mills throughout the legislative process. And although almost every Democrat in the legislature supported the bill during initial votes, they failed to advance the measure to the governor’s desk after she applied pressure on lawmakers to kill it, likely hoping to avoid a high-profile veto of a bill widely supported by the party’s base. 

“Democratic leaders did not respect the tribes nor represent future generations when making the decision to kill LD 1626. We were watching, and we see you,” over 20 youth leaders at the protest said in a joint statement. 

In an interview, youth community organizer Luke Sekera-Flanders said young people were there to bring attention and accountability to the death of the tribal sovereignty bill in the Democratic-led legislature and to ask the party to stand in solidarity with the Wabanaki and do everything it can to support Indigenous rights going forward. 

“Respecting the inherent sovereign rights of the Wabanaki nations is on the current party platform. LD 1626 was a key step, it was really the only measure to fully recognize tribal sovereignty put forward this session and [Democrats] did not support that as strongly as they could have,” Sekera-Flanders said. 

Youth activists outside the Maine Democratic convention on Saturday pushing for tribal sovereignty | Sunlight Media Collective

The party platform approved over the weekend states “we must recognize, honor, and uphold the sovereignty and self-governance of all tribes in Maine.”

Democrats in the State House did work with tribes to make some progress this legislative session, approving a bill to address the water crisis at the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation and a measure to allow tribes to run online sports betting markets. But Wabanaki leaders don’t view either of those bills as a full recognition of their sovereignty. 

Saturday’s protest outside the convention drew significant attention, as Sekera-Flanders said convention security personnel washed away chalk messages supporting tribal sovereignty. He added that someone inside the hall called the police about the messages and about the protest and young people’s efforts to engage with legislators around LD 1626. He noted the irony of the authorities being notified, given that Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was recently widely mocked for calling police about a chalk message in front of her home in support of abortion rights. Sekera-Flanders said he doesn’t know who specifically within the convention complained to the police. 

On Monday, a Maine Democratic Party official told Beacon the party itself did not call the police on the youth activists. 

The fate of the sovereignty bill is just one frustration some advocates have with Mills, a conservative Democrat who has vetoed a number of progressive bills, including on issues related to workers rightspublic electricity and criminal justice reform

Still, Mills and Democrats will hope to gain significant support from left-leaning voters in the upcoming election and have repeatedly drawn attention to LePage’s disastrous legacy as governor, during which he made a series of racist commentsslashed the social safety netignored dangerous environmental problems and opposed policies to stop harmful treatment of LGBTQ Mainers. 

At their convention earlier this month, the Maine GOP doubled down on extreme right-wing policies, such as proclaiming marriage as between only a man and a woman (an unpopular stance with the majority of Mainers), curbing abortion rights, anti-union policies, anti-immigrant proposals, and policies that would make it harder for certain people to vote.  

Dems’ platform seeks to protect basic rights under attack

The Maine Democratic Party platform approved at the convention is vastly different from its GOP counterpart. For example, in the wake of a draft Supreme Court opinion taking aim at Roe v. Wade, Maine Democrats reiterated their support of bodily autonomy and reproductive health care. 

The platform also includes support for LGBTQ rights, a direct contrast to the stance of the Maine Republican Party and the legacy of LePage, who vetoed a bill to ban conversion therapy that was later signed by Mills.   

In addition, Democrats call for adequate health care, housing, education and food for all and argue it is a “moral failure in such a rich and powerful nation that many people do not enjoy such basic human rights.” 

In many areas, the platform does not put forward specific policy prescriptions for solving political issues, instead relying on value statements. The platform is non-binding, although it does provide a glimpse into what issues are important to the party. 

Maine Democrats also say in their platform that they support equal pay for equal work, a living wage, paid vacation and family and medical leave, and the right to unionize. In addition, they state that too much wealth has been concentrated in the hands of the few and argue for progressive taxation as a remedy. Such values haven’t yet resulted in legislative action, though, as Democrats have had full control in Augusta since 2019 but haven’t reversed LePage-era tax cuts favoring the wealthy and corporations. Mills during her first gubernatorial campaign pledged not to raise taxes, complicating the path for progressive revenue bills in the legislature. 

Along with economic rights, the platform spells out the imperative to address the climate crisis, with the party stating that without bold action, “none of our visions for a better world will be achievable.” Environmental policies put forward in the document include reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a rapid shift to green technology and increases in energy efficiency. 

The platform also includes support for full funding of public education and “an honest treatment of all subjects, with a curriculum guided by educators, not corrupted by political agendas rooted in prejudice or unhinged from reality,” likely a reference to efforts by conservatives, including the Maine GOP, to censor certain forms of education, such as teachings about race and sex ed.  

Criminal justice reform is mentioned in the document as well, with the party stating that the War on Drugs has had racist, unjust consequences and that reforms to the system must emphasize rehabilitation and evidence-based alternatives to incarceration for those with mental health issues and substance use disorder. That section, however, is one of several in which the platform contains differences with Mills’ view. The governor is a former prosecutor who has blocked or opposed a series of criminal justice reforms. 

In addition, the Press Herald reported that some specific progressive criminal justice reform measures, such as decriminalizing drugs and sex work and ending mass incarceration and cash bail, were put forward as proposed amendments but not included in the platform. A proposal to support the campaign to replace Central Maine Power and Versant with a consumer-owned utility also failed. Mills has opposed the push for a consumer-owned utility.  

The Democratic platform also expresses concern about the increasing hostility toward democracy exhibited by many, such as those in the Republican Party who have trumpeted former President Donald Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen and have failed to condemn the attempted January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

“American Democracy faces an existential threat. The values and rights espoused in the U.S. Constitution are under attack,” the platform reads. “Maine Democrats are pledged to protect them and to ensure they endure.”


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Originally published in the Maine Beacon, May 17, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

At Tokyo Pride, Japanese Communist Party pledges fight for LGBTQ equality law / by Shimbun Akahata

Shii Kazuo, chair of the Japanese Communist Party, addresses a rally at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2022 Festival. | via JCP

TOKYO—Calling for creating a society where sexual minorities, including LGBTQ people, can positively live as themselves, the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2022 festival took place April 22-24 in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park under COVID-19 restrictions which limited the number of in-person participants.

Solidarity speeches were delivered by officials from foreign embassies in Tokyo and political party representatives, including Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo.

Celebrants at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2022 march through a downtown area. | via TRP

Wearing a rainbow scarf, Shii appeared on the open-air stage. Shii said that social change has transpired in regard to the issue of same-sex marriage. As an example, Shii referred to the Sapporo District Court ruling a year ago which recognized that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Japanese Constitution clause which stipulates equality before the law. He also pointed to the fact that over half of Japan’s population now live in municipalities with a same-sex partnership recognition system.

“I believe a society with respect for LGBTQ people is a society in which everyone can live their lives with dignity,” Shii said. He expressed the determination of the Communist Party to work hard to enact an LGBTQ equality law in parliament and realize a revision of the Civil Code so that same-sex couples can get married.

After the three-day Rainbow Pride festival, about 2,000 people paraded through Tokyo’s major shopping areas of Shibuya and Harajuku, appealing to passersby to support their call for legalization of same-sex marriage.

Kawai Jun, who is in his 30s and works as a childcare worker in Tokyo, said, “Since I came out as transgender two years ago, my co-workers and children’s guardians have shown their understanding and acceptance of sexual diversity. I really appreciate this.”

Shimbun Akahata (しんぶん赤旗) is the daily newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party.