Eryn Harris, a Palm Coast student cinematographer and editor, last week organized a rally in Flagler Beach in support of civil rights and the LGBTQ+ community in the wake of the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a new law that, starting in July, will forbid public school educators from having discussion or instruction of gender identity issues in certain grades–and enabling parents to sue school districts over that and other issues only vaguely defined in the bill. The following Op-Art piece, featuring Harris’s photographs and text, originally appeared at Harris’s website.
By Eryn Harris
On Wednesday, March 30, local LGBTQ+ organization Flagler Pride, with support from the Palm Coast and Flagler Beach Democratic Clubs, proudly displayed colorful flags and protest signs in Veteran’s Park at Flagler Beach, on the intersection of A1A and SR-100.
The 2018 “Progress Pride Flag” design celebrates marginalized communities of color with the brown and black stripes, as well as the white, pink, and blue stripes affirming Transgender individuals within the LGBTQ+ community. Flying this flag in Flagler Beach prompts memories of just a few weeks ago, when local student leader Jack Petocz was suspended from Flagler Palm Coast High School for distributing pride flags, deemed political paraphernalia, at his walkout against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. FPCHS is only ten minutes down the road from Veterans Park, on SR-100.
Every once in a while, protesters would get jeers and laughs, such as one community member driving by screaming “Marriage is between a man and a woman,” however, attendees continued to spread their message of equality, love, and positivity.
“It’s bullshit,” Toniann Musselman, 20, stated about the bill. “Is it essential to have students feel accepted and comfortable in a learning environment such as schools”.
America Hill, 20, stated that she “did not hear the word ‘gay’ or anything associated with the LBGTQ+ community until middle school. Even then, it was pretty ‘hush hush’,” a problem that will surely continue with the passing of the bill in Florida, likely to spread to other states. “Children and young adolescents should be able to ask their teacher what it means to be gay or trans, and the teachers should be able to give an answer without repercussions,” America stated.
Katie Collins, 22, stressed that “there are a myriad of concerning bills from this Governor and they all seem to be designed to placate his voter base and oppress everyone else,” referencing Ron DeSantis’ passionate voters hoping for a 2024 Presidential ballot run. “In the meantime, we can’t sit idly by and wait until Election Day as kids are in limbo, so we continue to protest and garner the support to have this bill repealed,” calling for more action from the community against the bill.
Dawn Hunter, 40, brought her kids to the rally. When passersby got a little rowdy, the group began to chant “we say gay,” until the cars drove off. Turning the situation into a valuable lesson, she turned to her kids and stressed the importance of how the whole group joined together with their message of love, and drowned out the one opinion of hate.
There was another message present at the rally, calling out Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers with thousands of LGBTQ+ employees, for donating to anti-LGBTQ+ political campaigns and staying largely silent on the matter until the bill had already passed. “Disney always has been two-faced,” America Hill stated, “there is a large profit that could be made from the LGBTQ+ community. If they were to fully outright support the community, they would lose unsupportive investors”.
In a call to action, Katie Collins stated that Disney’s “main motivation for stepping back was the money. I think it is entirely possible for corporations to live by their core values, and it’s time for Disney to prove me wrong and show us all that they do care about more than their bottom line”. Disney continues to make profits off of the LGBTQ+ community by selling merchandise with pride flag colors, while donating millions to corporations and Republican candidates that express anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
“We must continue protesting against the oppressive legislation in hope that it will be overturned,” Toniann Musselman said. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557 into Florida law on March 28th.
You go kids and Mothers! I had gay friends in the 70’s. This RNC is against everything not white and ……. Need I say more! They want to go back to the 1970’s when women were just homemakers and child bearing…..how can we have hatred for any child? Why is there so much hatred and meanness in our country? This is not who we are or who we are meant to be. We are to be the country of peace, but how can we promote peace when all we do is fight within. Just looking back over the past 25 years this was not what politics stood for or was meant to be in our country. It was to better our world, our country and our personal life’s. But currently it’s just a civil war for power and not for the good of the people! It’s for the good of “self”. Sadly it appears government on one side has lost sight of the constitution and their duty as representatives to our country!
Deborah Coffey says
Bravo! We are not all haters here in Flagler County.
It just applies to pre-kindergarten to third grade. Seems a little early to start talking about complicated human sexuality issues. I don’t feel this is a hill to die on.
Acknowledging that gay people exist is not complicated. The pearl-clutching needs to end. When a small child is afraid of talking about their same-sex parents or fun family experiences outside of the nuclear model, this bill has smeared the “family values” it claims to protect.
This State has become a National embarrassment.
Is that why people are moving here in droves fro NY and California?
No we are moving to Florida to change the politics , just wait and see what’s to come!
Don't Cull Me says
Perhaps the lack of state taxes on income.
Christopher Lemke says
Yes, it’s very embarrassing to the poorly run blue states. Well put.
Me Too says
I say, “NO DEATHSANTIS!”
Concerned Citizen says
The Beatles said it best. “All You Need Is Love”
Time to stop judging on Sexual orientation. Race and whatever else you need to hate someone for. Life is short and sweet. And none of us are guarenteed another second on this planet. If we spend more time loving and less time hating it will make this a better place for all.
Freedom is for all …in Florida as well, in spite of DeSatan. Thank you for your courage.
When I retired from my career in WA state and moved into my home here in Palm Coast, one of the first things I wanted to do was meet with my new doctor to get acquanted. When he heard that I had just relocated from WA to FL, he kind of chuckled and asked me how it felt to go back in time 30 years! No joke. Well, over time, I have realized how informative his quirky yet ominous question really was. Our current governor and his GOP sycophants up in Tallahassee have been trying very hard to take all of us who live here back in time, past the time of Anita Bryant even, with their draconian laws they seemingly cannot stop themselves from passing. While falsely spouting their party line about being all about small government, they are trying to squash any kind of freedoms that don’t align with their backwards world view. Same sex marriage is legal? They don’t care and now there is a law preventing kids of same sex parents from even having normal classroom discussions about what their families did last weekend. Abortion is legal in the U.S.? They don’t care and have passed restrictive laws to prevent even women who are the victim of rape from being allowed to abort the fetus of the man who victimized here. Democrats winning elections in this state? Time after time, this state’s GOP legislature has passed laws making it harder for voters the GOP thinks will vote D to succeed. If you are a minority living here, it is even worse, especially for people of color. These republicans want you to believe their BS that they are all about small government when they are spying right into your bedroom and passing laws to try and force you to conform to their ideology. I have never seen such hypocrisy, and especially after moving to FL from our west, it is quite alarming. I sincerely hope that FL voters wake up from this nightmare and realize what Deathsantis and the GOP legislators are all about, because if they are not stopped either by us voters or the courts, who knows where they will end up taking the state back in time to… Jim Crow???
Great to see the love and acceptance bloosoming in the south! We need more gay school kids in this county! Let’s go!! WE SAY GAY! It’s ok to be gay!
Christopher Lemke says
People of these communities have the same rights as every other American. What am I missing? I think that these protests are more about attacking DeSantis than other issues. The left is very worried about his ascendancy and rise in popularity. We will be in a healthy place when we can get back to open debate. Thanking Elon on advance. Censoring will no longer work and many social media sites will either change to be more open or cease to exist. Nothing can stop this.“Wokeness basically wants to make comedy illegal,” he stated, “Trying to shut down Chappelle, come on man, that’s crazy. Do we want a humorless society that is simply rife with condemnation and hate basically? At it’s heart wokeness is divisive exclusionary and hateful it basically gives mean people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue.”
Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences and Dave Chappelle loves his rape jokes. Elon Musk has a long history of being anti-union and promoting extremely harmful labor practices. Above all, DeSantis’s agenda against the LGBT community is extremely plain to see to anyone who chooses to look. If this community “already has all of the rights as everyone else”, tell me why there’s this many bills against their right to do more or less anything, ever, down to going to the bathroom or letting a 5-year-old with two dads talk about his family at school. Typical “don’t think for yourself, we’ll tell you what to think” behavior from our favorite Grand Old Party as usual.
Please just live your life no one is against you, as a matter of fact no one cares if your gay, just be a good person and try to find a great way of helping people of all genders, races, all this hate and anger clouds your understanding of things you don’t want to try and understand. People have rights just like you and the majority don’t want the schools to explain sex of any kind to their 3rd graders, respect that, we respect your right to be who you are.
Read the law. It’s not, “don’t say gay!” It protects the children. Kids grades K-3 shouldn’t learn about sexuality, gender identity or any of that. Actually in my opinion school should teach academics and that’s all. Gender identity, sexuality, all of that should be discussed with parents and within someone’s home. This is a bill that protects children, period.
Celia Pugliese says
Live and Let Live. We are all Gods creatures! We are not born with choices (as babies do not choose), but are all born with rights that even our constitution warranties!