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Sunday, June 18, 2006

st Vigil Targets Anti-Gay Arson

Vigil on One Week Anniversary of Arson Attack On Gay Section of Chicago Public Library

7 PM, Tuesday, June 20

in front of the Merlo Public Library

CHICAGO – Activists are urging all community members to attend a protest vigil in front of the Merlo Public Library, 644 W. Belmont, at 7 PM, Tuesday, June 20th, the one week anniversary of an arson attack on the Library that destroyed about 100 books, mostly in the library’s unique Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans section. The arsonist(s) apparently used lighter fluid as an accelerant to target the collection, the only one of its kind in the entire 81-branch public library system.

ONE branch with an LGBT section is attacked, and of the many sections in that one library, it is the LGBT one which suffered most of the damage,” said Bob Schwartz of the Gay Liberation Network, the group which initiated the protest. “Whether it’s out of laziness, incompetence or a desire to promote an overly rosy image of the city to prospective tourists, the police department’s refusal to call this a probable hate crime doesn’t help matters. Instead, it sends the message that the City doesn't take the violation of the LGBT community’s civil liberties seriously.”

“Anti-gay forces have long tried to use discriminatory legislation to intimidate people from coming out, and now they've used violence to erase our presence in the libraries as well,” said Schwartz. The Merlo Library’s Lesbian and Gay collection was featured in a substantial article in the Chicago Free Press a few months ago. The arson attack comes just a few weeks after Illinois's most active anti-gay organization, the Illinois Family Institute, led a battle to censor "objectionable" books out of the curriculum of a north suburban school district.

“After the 1998 lynching of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard, thousands of folks around the country held vigils highlighting the hate crime. By doing so, they dramatically increased public consciousness about the problems of anti-LGBT hate and violence. With this vigil, in a small way we are attempting to make that same kind of contribution,” said GLN’s Andy Thayer.

The Gay Liberation Network is urging community members to not only attend the vigil but, if possible, to send an additional message to the book burners by bringing a new LGBT book to donate to the library's collection. A bin to deposit the books will be available at the vigil. In the event that donated titles aren't needed by the Merlo Library, they will be donated to the Gerber Hart Library, Chicago's privately funded LGBT library.

For Information: Bob Schwartz, 773-878-3697; Andy Thayer, 773-209-1187

Visit the Gay Liberation Network online at www.gayliberation.org.

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