Memphis Hub

Trans/Queer Anarchist Group Bash Back Takes Credit for Vandalism of Gay Soldier Billboard in Memphis


The radical trans/queer anarchist group Bash Back, which was profiled in September's Details magazine, has taken credit for vandalizing the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center's "Coming Out Day" billboard, which featured a gay soldier.

Bb After mocking the rallies held by the gay and lesbian community in Memphis in response, a Bash Back blogger writes:

"I’m here to dispute the claim that this action was an anti-gay act. First, sending gays to be military fodder is NOT pro-gay or conclusive whatsoever to gay liberation. State militarism only reinforces the dominant structures, and the racism/heterosexism they perpetuate, as well as reducing the number of gay people in the world (both those in Amerikkka and the countries Amerikkka is colonizing/conquering). Second, we accuse the MGLCC of being flat out racist/anti-queer/anti-trans; and we furiously question how that the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center can squander $3500 on military billboards, when Memphis has the highest trans-murder rate (11 trans women of color, 1 white transwoman and 1 transman of color), as well as one of the highest queer youth homeless rates in the nation, and how they can justify putting a pro-military billboard in the overwhelmingly POC neighborhood of Morris Park, when the poor Black community in Morris Park is disporportionately preyed upon by the military (through the court system’s 'prison or military service' rule for minor felonies as well as recruiters’ false promises of otherwise impossible economic/education opportunities)?"

Two Men Attempt to Burn Rainbow Flag at Memphis Gay Center


Memphis police arrested 23-year-old Ross Burton early Wednesday morning as he and another man attempted to set fire to the rainbow flag (see singed rope in photo, above) at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, the Memphis Flyer reports:

Burton "Plainclothes officers observed Burton and another man — who fled the scene and remains at large — attempting to set fire to the rope that runs up the flag pole in front of the MGLCC. When police officers approached the men, an altercation ensued, and one suspect attempted to disarm an officer. Additional police were dispatched and some reportedly received lacerations and abrasions from the struggle. The suspects fled, but Burton was located and arrested. Burton is being charged with aggravated assault and vandalism under $500."

Burton's face is bruised because he fought with the officer, Russell Woolley: "Woolley says after Burton 'swung his fist at him,' the other guy jumped on his back and tried to take his 'service pistol from the holster.' After Woolley hit the unidentified man with his radio, he took off. But Burton never gave up the fight. It took a good samaritan and some pepper spray to get him to comply."

In late September a "Coming Out Day" billboard featuring a gay Marine that was sponsored by the Center was destroyed in an act of vandalism. Police have not determined whether the two crimes are related.

That crime inspired hundreds to rally in response.

Hundreds in Memphis Rally in Response to Anti-Gay Vandalism

(image commercial appeal)

Approximately 250 people attended a rally at the First Congregational Church in Memphis yesterday in response to the destruction last week of a "Coming Out Day" billboard featuring a gay Marine discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

Watch speeches, AFTER THE JUMP...

Commercial Appeal reports: Billboard "In their battle for equality, gays and lesbians in Memphis must find and raise their voices, a former Marine told them. And raise a roar they did Sunday afternoon at First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young community in a rally hosted by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. The crowd greeted former Marine Tim Smith, 27, with drumming, whistling, clapping and a standing ovation. Standing at a podium in the sanctuary, Smith described the oxymoron of being a gay Christian and his struggle to find his voice. 'I knew that when God looked at me as a gay man, he loved me for who I am,' said Smith, who is now a student at the University of Memphis. 'When God made me, he didn't say, 'Oops.'' Hoisting colorful signs that read "Don't Ask, Don't Progress" and "Straight Against Hate," the crowd cheered."

According to the Memphis Flyer, "Despite Sunday's heavy rain, nearly every chair inside the worship hall was filled. The rally was originally planned to be held outside the church...After the rally, county commissioner Steve Mulroy agreed: 'My message to the billboard vandals is thank you for galvinizing (sic) the community and symbolizing what we're up against in Memphis.'"

Four speeches from the rally, Will Batts and Heidi Smith from the MGLCC, billboard Marine Tim Smith, and Jennifer Warren, who is featured on one of the other billboards, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hundreds in Memphis Rally in Response to Anti-Gay Vandalism" »

Gay Former Marine Speaks Out About Vandalized Memphis Billboard


Tim Smith, the Marine discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" who appeared on a sign for National Coming Out Day which was ripped to shreds in Memphis over the weekend, talks about the vandalism, and the pride he had serving his country.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, a rally in Memphis is planned for this Sunday.


Continue reading "Gay Former Marine Speaks Out About Vandalized Memphis Billboard" »

Memphis Rally Set as Gay Marine Speaks About Damaged Billboard

Tim Smith, the discharged Marine who appears on the Memphis billboard which was destroyed by vandals over the weekend, spoke out about it to KLTV:


"It felt like somebody had violated the honor and commitment that we as military veterans feel about our service. [The billboard gives a voice to] all my brothers and sisters in uniform who are part of the gay community who aren't able to speak for themselves. I think now the community has been shocked, but shocked into further action. The billboards will be put back up."

A rally is planned for 1 pm on Sunday at First Congregational Church at 1000 S. Cooper Street in Memphis.

Said Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center Executive Director Will Batts: "Protest in anger really just kind of stir up the anger, but protest with a purpose, which is what ours is going to be, is to use that feeling to do things in the community, to speak out, to encourage other people to come out in the community who may not have been comfortable up until this point."

Watch FOX Memphis' interview with Bates, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Memphis Rally Set as Gay Marine Speaks About Damaged Billboard" »

'Coming Out' Billboard Featuring Gay Soldier Destroyed in Memphis


One of five billboards featuring messages in observance of National Coming Out Day which were posted in the Memphis area was torn to shreds by vandals on Friday night. The billboard, posted at Poplar and Highland streets, featured a gay soldier who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and read "I'm gay and I protected your freedom."

Below, what the billboard looks like today.


The billboards were created by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

WMC-TV Memphis reports: "The campaign's purpose is to promote understanding of issues affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community in the Mid-South. Police have not said whether there are suspects in custody. Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center President Heidi Williams says she's appalled by such an act of hatred. 'I know that they intended to silence us with hate. However, we are choosing to unite and come over that with a stronger voice, and a message that we are here - and we deserve equality as well as everyone else,' she said."

The MGLCC is planning a rally next weekend in response to the vandalism.


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