MeMoir 3

MeMoir 3
dating direct
Image by ruSSeLL hiGGs
For today’s personal nostagia jaunt I was originally intending to share a front page from the Pink Paper dated ‘week ending 5 August 1989’. It was a lovely group shot with a giant catapault, plus me with a real catapult, firing condoms over the wall into the grounds of Pentonville Prison. But because tomorrow’s installment will probably also be an ACT-UP London AIDS activist tale, I thought that for the sake of variety I’d today opt instead for this front page from the Pink Paper, dated ‘week ending 16th June 1990’.

It was the first ever direct action by OutRage. The original photographer was Richard Maude.

I think I chaired the very first meeting of OutRage, before it even had a name, and when some people present assumed the new group would be called Queer Nation. At this time I was already a regular frontline activist and chair of ACT-UP London (that acronym being….the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power). And as we’d directly imported the name of that group from our AIDS activist brothers and sisters in America, it was assumed by many that this new direct action group would similarly be given the already established American title of "Queer Nation".

Our first OutRage action was outside the public toilets in Hyde Park corner, where police agent provocateurs (or "pretty police") were known to lure gay men into arrestable setups.

This photo is unusual in that it’s a more performative moment. But there was little to photograph otherwise, just a bunch of people with placards and a megaphone. We weren’t lying down in front of the traffic or anything that day and I don’t think there were any arrests, so I suggested to the press that they follow a few of us down into the toilets where we threw them some poses.

So here I am stood at the urinal in the Hyde Park gent’s toilet, wearing one of those plastic policeman’s helmets that they sell in tourist gift shops, and holding a placard that reads "WASTING POLICE TIME, WASTING PUBLIC MONEY."

one of the other placards says "PROTECTION NOT SEDUCTION" and the third one contains a photo of Keith Burgess (I think), a gay man who was stabbed to death in a typical unsolved homophobic attack.

Here’s some text from the article itself….

"The first ever OutRage demonstration, contrasting police activity in ‘cottages’ with perceived inactivity in gay-bashing cases, was declared a success by members of the direct action group last Thursday."

"……..with the aid of a megaphone they chanted ‘Arrest the murderers not the victims’."

"….The group chose the park toilets for the demonstration to focus attention on the recently published statistics cataloguing 2,454 ‘indecency’ arrests of gay men for 1989, at a time when several community members have been murdered by gangs of gay-bashers."

the only link for Outrage I could find currently is a link to Peter Tatchell’s site…..

Tomorrow’s front page adventure, as I mentioned, will be an ACT-UP London action, captured by the now defunct paper Capital Gay. It’s little old me handcuffed to a revolving door down Whitehall.