Ending the Campaign of Terror


Unless you count the teenage boys calling names or speeding through on their bikes with signs bearing slurs, whoever was making threats of violence in Northampton under the name of SHUN (Stop Homosexual Unity Now) did not have the courage to make themselves known at the second March for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Northampton, MA on May 14, 1983. But the campaign of harassment continued with more phone calls that very afternoon.

harassment log may june 83_edited-1In the month following the March, ”Harassment Chronology.” Lesbian and Gay Task Force Newsletter. Northampton MA. June 1983. Courtesy of Bambi Gauthier.

Over the next few weeks, eggs were sporadically thrown by unknown persons at Womonfyre Bookstore at 22 Center Street, the most publically visible sponsor of Lesbian events. Kim Christensen, the March’s spokesperson, who had made her phone number public in order to answer City official and press queries, received not only phone calls but 4:30 a.m. visits from males who stood shouting outside her home.

affidavit p1_edited-1

affadavit p2_edited-1 Affidavit from Kim Christensen  harassment experienced by her Jun-Jul 1983.

One lesbian began receiving as many as thirty phone calls a day. When this woman went to City police, on-duty officers refused to take her complaint or listen to the message machine tape and misinformed her about what could be done. Only after contacting the Northampton Lesbian/Gay Task Force was she able to make her complaint to the police, with the support of Task Force members. It was reported in the Valley Women’s Voice that while Northampton Police Chief Labato appeared sympathetic, he referred to her and accompanying Task Force members as “you gays and lezzies.”

reports ignored VWV sep 83_edited-1“Harassment Reports Ignored.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Sep. 1983.

The Task Force strongly disagreed with Mayor Musante’s decision to disband the group because he thought that their work was done. The group continued to work to stop the violence after being disbanded by the Mayor. While the Mayor, his assistant and the Northampton Police representative withdrew, the three Lesbians and three gay men, and the Assistant DA Dave Angier continued to meet. In response to the ongoing threats Angier got the DA’s office to assign State Police Trooper John Gibbons to join him in working with the group. The Task Force encouraged the communities to report any incidents to the DA, Police and Task Force. While the Lesbian and Gay Task Force members names were kept confidential, under pressure, when one man allowed his name to be public he also became a target. Threats to beat “faggots” began.

Other people in the community were working on a City anti-discrimination ordinance. In July, after four months work, N’CAN, the Northampton Citizens Action Network, circulated a draft ordinance and asked for help to get it passed in the coming year. That same month, the task of educating the people of Northampton was aided by a series of articles on the community written by Maureen Fitzgerald for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. At the same time, Boston’s Channel 4 aired a two-part special on the harassment in Northampton.

ordinance draft_edited-1Outreach Committee, Antidiscrimination Ordinance Coalition. Letter. PVPGA Gayzette. July 1983. Courtesy of Bambi Gauthier.

All of this publicity seemed to spur the numerous anonymous males, whose telephoned threats were being taped, into overdrive. As harassment increased, Lesbians working with the DA’s office finally agreed to help set up a phone trap. The co-owners of Womonfyre Books and Kim Christensen worked with ADA Angier and the city police to put it in place. Lesbian events were deliberately advertised with a home phone number. One of the women stayed home after the advertisement appeared to monitor the phone calls and tape them with a machine furnished by the DA’s office. As threatening calls came in, the time was to be noted so that the phone company could then trace specific calls to the phone from which they were made.

Kiryo, Kim in Boaton Globe May 22 1983_edited-2Two of the three women who were key to trapping one of the harassers, Kiriyo and Kim. Bookstore co-owner Jil Krolik isn’t pictured. “Northampton’s Gays Fight Back.” Boston Globe. Boston MA. May 22, 1983.

“Interestingly,” Kim Christensen recalls, “as soon as the trap was to go into effect, the calls temporarily stopped. Sometimes it was uncanny. E.g., we’d be planning to turn on the phone trap at 9:00 AM and I’d get a call at 8:00, 8:15, 8:30 and 8:57, and then they would stop.” For weeks, the procedure was repeated with the same results. Kim adds, “Finally the ADA decided to put on the trap without notifying the police department beforehand, and boom! a member of SHUN was trapped on the very first attempt. It was extremely suspicious.”

On Saturday, July 30, while the phone trap was in place, thirty-five calls were made by boys and three by an adult male  who identified himself as belonging to SHUN. Suspicious events didn’t end there, according to Kim, but continued with difficulties with the local phone company. While the originating phone number could have been identified immediately, the Northampton office refused to give it to the authorities involved. Five days later investigators from the DA’s office, armed with a search warrant, raided the Northampton phone company business office looking for the number, without success. Eventually it had to be obtained from the phone company’s Boston headquarters.

Armed with this information, on Aug. 5 State Police went to the Northampton address identified. They questioned a 23 year-old local male living there. One of his relatives was a former Northampton policeman.  After initially denying the charges, the suspect confessed on tape to the State Police that he had made the three July 30 phone calls and he was arrested.

arrest sep 83 gayzette_edited-1

The next day he was formally charged with repeatedly telephoning Jil Krolik for the purpose of harassing and annoying her, and for threatening bodily harm to Kim Christensen and Kiriyo Spooner. Additionally, District Attorney Ryan charged that the threatened reprisals were violations of the women’s civil rights; the rights of free speech and assembly, free association, and privacy.

When the accused agreed to submit to a sufficiency of evidence that indicated his guilt, a sentencing hearing before a judge was set for Aug. 24. A maximum penalty of two and a half years in jail was possible.  Though no other males were arrested, calls from SHUN ceased. [If you really want to know his name, you can look it up. He is still living in the area and I will not credit him.]

Although ordered to stay away from the complainants, the guilty male confronted one woman on the street before the next scheduled court appearance and shouted names at her. At the Aug. 24 sentencing hearing in Hampshire Superior Court, Sherman Boyson later reported in the PVPGA Gayzette, the defendant’s friends hissed at the testifying lesbians and called them “scum.” The tape from July 30 was played. It included this threat: “We promise systematic violence…Beware when you walk home! Beware when you walk the streets and where you live at night!” Boyson called it quite chilling.

The prosecutors then moved to play the taped confession made by the accused. Before that could be done however, the accused’s lawyer stopped the proceedings, changed his client’s plea to “not guilty,” and asked for a trial. Boysen later surmised that the seriousness of the evidence already presented was clearly pointing toward jail time, which the defendant’s lawyer wished to avoid for his client.

Both the prosecutors and the State Police believed that the accused had made many more threats then the three he had admitted to. In preparation for a jury trial, the PVGA Gayzette reported, the District Attorney’s office made plans to send some of the fifty message tapes accumulated to the FBI for voice analysis in order to determine what  additional charges would be made.

The three complainants continued to aid in preparing the case for trial. One of the woman was alarmed, however, to be asked by the State Trooper and later an FBI agent for information totally unrelated to the case. She was asked to try to identify people in a photos she later learned were suspected members of the Weather Underground. Kim Christensen remembers that the telephone message tapes that would hopefully be analyzed by the FBI were sitting in the room at the time of this interview, and it was made very clear to her by the Agent that cooperation was a two way street.

FBI questions_edited-1 “FBI Questions Northampton Lesbians: Agent Probes Progressive Politics.” Gay Community News. Boston MA. Sep. 24, 1983. Courtesy of Bambi Gauthier.

The FBI Agent went on to ask about the size and composition of the Northampton lesbian and gay community, its support for Sandinistas, belief in blowing up buildings, and any coalitions with leftist groups. All three of the women interviewed by the FBI felt  pressured to cooperate in this fishing expedition. Kim  immediately recognized what was occurring and refused to cooperate. The women sent word out to the community of the FBI’s intrusive presence. No voice analysis was ever done by the FBI to help the court case and the proffered message tapes disappeared. If copies had not been made and kept by the women complainants, there would have been no recorded evidence to present at a trial.

Before a jury could be convened, the confessed harasser changed his mind once again and agreed to submit to facts rather than face a trial. A sentencing hearing was once more scheduled, but before it could take place, his attorney got a continuance so his client could undergo psychiatric testing and counseling.  Finally, on Oct. 11, 1983, the hearing resumed before Judge Alvertas Morse in Hampshire Superior Court.

The defendant’s attorney argued that counseling and community service was appropriate punishment, that his client had been raised in a “staunchly Roman Catholic family” which believed homosexuality was immoral, which may have contributed to his feelings against the gay community. Judge Morse, however, found the defendant guilty on all charges and sentenced him to one year in prison, three months of which were to be served and the rest suspended while he was on probation for four years. DA Michael Ryan  told the Daily Hampshire Gazette it was the first time anyone in the Commonwealth had been imprisoned for violating a person’s civil rights as guaranteed by the 1980 Massachusetts Civil Rights Law.

I find no record that the male convicted expressed any remorse. Interviewed outside the courthouse after sentencing he blamed his “big mouth” for his behavior. He stated he didn’t know what going to jail would prove. Intimating that he was justified in his behavior, he said, “I would like to know what the community thinks about this,…the Northampton natives.”

DHG oct 83_edited-1

In November, all of Northampton’s City Council, the Mayor, and half the School Committee would be up for reelection. In a new chapter of political activism, Lesbians and gay men would demonstrate to the City that they would not only march in the streets but would wield the power of their votes.

gay man runs gayzette aug 83_edited-1The PVPGA Gayzette. Northampton MA. Aug. 1983.

Sources:

__Sege, Irene. “Northampton’s Gays Fight Back.” Boston Globe. Boston MA. May 22, 1983.

__”Harassment Chronology.” Lesbian and Gay Task Force Newsletter. Northampton MA. June 1983.

__”Brief History of the Task Force.” Lesbian and Gay Task Force Newsletter. Northampton MA. June 1983.

__Christensen, Kimberly. Affidavit: Exhibit R. March 20, 1984.

__Outreach Committee, Antidiscrimination Ordinance Coalition. Letter. PVPGA Gayzette. July 1983.

__Logan, Rebecca. “Harassment Reports Ignored.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Sep. 1983.

__Goldsmith, Larry. “FBI Questions Northampton Lesbians: Agent Probes Progressive Politics.” Gay Community News. Boston MA. Sep. 24, 1983.

__Hasbrouck,Amy. “Fallout From the FBI.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Dec. 1983.

__Christensen, Kim. Email correspondence with Kaymarion Raymond Aug 8- Nov. 17, 2004.

__Blomberg, Marcia. ”Arrest made in phone threats to gays.”  Springfield Union. Springfield MA. Aug. 6, 1983.

__”Gay Man Runs for Northampton City Council.” The PVPGA Gayzette. Northampton MA. Aug. 1983.

__Boysen, Sherman. “Results! Man Arrested in Hamp Harassment.” The PVPGA Gayzette. Northampton MA. Sep. 1983.

__”gay man runs for northampton city council seat.” Gay Community News. Boston MA. Sep. 3, 1983.

__Thomas, Linda. “Empowerment by Vote.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Sep. 1983.

__Boysen, Sherman. “…Case Still Not Settled.” The PVPGA Gayzette. Northampton MA. Oct. 1983.

__Fitzgerald, Maureen. “Man jailed for threats to lesbians.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Oct. 11, 1983.

gerry campaign flyer sep 83_edited-1

Marching In Spite of Threats: 1983


 

In spite of the continuing threats of murder, arson and unspecified violence from those anonymous males calling themselves SHUN (Stop Homosexual Unity Now) the Gay and Lesbian Activists (GALA) organizers of the Northampton March stepped up efforts to ensure that the event happened a second year, 1983. The March was given an official name , for Gay and Lesbian Rights, with snazzier artwork  for publicity , and, once again, scheduled for the second Saturday in May. Organizers aimed to bring out at least a thousand supporters. They made efforts to build a broad coalition as well as to protect the marchers.

march flyer may 15 1983Flyer for the March. May 14, 1983. Artist Unknown.

Invitations to participate were sent not only to progressive groups around the state but also to each of the City Councilors.  For the first time, endorsers were sought to buy a full-page ad in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Only three hundred donors were needed to pay for it. When it was published the day before the March, it included the names over 600 individuals and groups.  It read, in part:  “The harassment, the threats, the violence directed at gays and lesbians appalls and frightens us. But like the intended victims of this campaign of hate, we are not silenced.” For a history of that previous year of threats of violence see the previous blog post “The Backlash to the First March.” https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2020/05/09/the-backlash-to-the-first-march/

Supporting the right of all people to be free from harassment and fear, the endorsers called on everyone (including straight people) to “Come Out for Justice.” Close to 90% of the endorsing organizations were not focused on gay issues. They came from Boston, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Western Massachusetts as well as more than thirty Northampton groups and businesses .

signature ad may 13 1983_edited-1Daily Hampshire Gazette May 13, 1983. Full page ad (here partially)

This first “signature ad” in some ways made up for City government’s foot dragging. The day before the second March, Northampton’s Mayor Musante released a statement on civil rights, but neglected to endorse the event. He had also dissolved the Lesbian/Gay Task Force created to address the communities’  concerns about increasing violence and lack of City government and media responsibility. After only two meetings, he was satisfied it had accomplished all that was needed.

Those anonymous male phone callers identifying themselves as SHUN had threatened to disrupt the March. As March endorsers became public, they, too, were targeted with threats. This included New Jewish Agenda, Hampshire County NOW, Northampton Law Collective, Circa Counseling, and Women’s Community Theatre.

phoned threat log May 9 1983 GALA_edited-1Log of phoned threats on GALA phone answering machine for May 9, 1983.

In the weeks leading up to the action, a Hatfield man announced in the Daily Hampshire Gazette that NOAH, his newly formed group, would counter-demonstrate that day. The scheduled event also received unanticipated attention when local TV station Springfield Channel 22 aired a five part documentary report the week before the March. “The Changing Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men in the Pioneer Valley,” by Vivian Sandler , included segments on family, religion, culture, and oppression.

For the first time, GALA put out a call for several dozen people to be trained in non-violent intervention and serve as peacekeepers at the March. Over fifty volunteers responded to keep potential conflicts from getting violent. They would appear at the March and the rally to follow it in turquoise T-shirts. Printed on the back of each T-shirt: “An Army of Lovers Can Not Fail.”

On May 14, 1983, an estimated 2,000 Lesbians , gay men, and supporters turned out to march a circuitous route from Bridge St. School, past City Hall, to Pulaski Park. This was twice the number of marchers anticipated and two to four times that of the previous year. Sherman Boyson, reporting in the Pioneer Valley Peoples Gay Alliance newsletter the Gayzette, found the number of people, with their clever disguises and purple balloons, overwhelming.

The handful of counter demonstrating members of NOAH, “National (Hatfield) Organization Against Homosexuals,” couldn’t believe there were so many ”homosexuals” in the Valley and accused the organizers of bringing them in from out of state. In fact, the great majority were from the Valley, many of whom were “out” at home for the first time.

The singing, chanting, sign-carrying and waving marchers included some people in masks and facepaint (no paper bags this year), babies pushed in strollers, and an occasional gay or lesbian dog.  Among the groups with banners were Womonfyre Books, the Valley Women’s Voice, and many others who had been threatened with violence. The hit of the day was the large banner carried by Lydia Nichy and Mary Patierno of Northampton. In a direct response to SHUN’s Stop Homosexual Unity Now, the banner read “Stop Heterosexual Intolerance Today,” or SHIT.

SHIT VWV June 1983_edited-1Coverage of the March, Valley Women’s Voice, June 1983. Photo by Sue Tyler.

Ward 2 Councilor William Ames, one of the few Republicans on the town’s governing body, had, right up to the day of the event, hesitated to join the March even though he had publicly endorsed it. He explained in a DHG story that he had received such angry phone calls in response to the anti-violence statement he had introduced to City Council (which failed to pass) that he feared for his family’s safety. Setting such apprehension aside, however, he joined the passing marchers, becoming the first city official to do so. His colleague, Councilor-At-Large Edward Keefe, became the first official to demonstrate in opposition. The Democrat stood on the sidewalk with NOAH. Other counter demonstrators included about a dozen people from Rev. Paasch ’s Faith Baptist Church in Florence.

Marchers filled Pulaski Park for speeches and entertainment. Gwendolyn Rogers, a Black lesbian mother and activist from Boston, delivered the keynote urging coalition building. Bet Birdfish, the coordinator of the New Alexandria Lesbian Library, spoke about the local harassment and need for community action. Other speakers scheduled included Ron Dion, a gay Springfield lawyer and father, LL Thomas of GALA, and Jerry Fresia, a straight man representing the Northampton Committee on Central America. The Valley Womyn’s Chorus, Vermont folksinger David Gott, and local lesbians Liz Foley and Kore offered entertainment.

GCN may 29 1983_edited-1Coverage of March Gay Community News, Boston May 29, 1983

The names of endorsing groups were read out at the rally. One precedent-setting list was read by Senator John Olver’s aide Stan Rosenberg, who had called local politicians to poll them about their stance on the March. In addition to several from Amherst and Charlemont, the endorsers he gathered included Olver, Representative William P. Nagle, Northwestern District Attorney Michael Ryan, County Commissioner Robert Garvey, Northampton School Committee members Maria Tymoczki, Susan Peterson, and John Lawlor, and Forbes Library Trustee Russell Carrier.

Although the City Clerk had declined an invitation to set up a voter registration table at the rally, office hours were extended that Saturday so marchers could register. At least thirty Northampton people took advantage of the opportunity and signed up at the City Hall, a few doors away from the Pulaski Park rally.

voter registration 83_edited-1

In spite of threats, the event was enthusiastically joyful. SHUN never made its presence visible. Peacekeepers silently surrounded several groups of heckling teenage boys, who shut up and retreated. One bike-riding boy shouted “Kill Lezbos” as he raced past marchers but other bikers with anti-lgbt  signs riding through the rally remained quieter.  The celebration continued that night with a dance. Lesbians and gays were now rallied for the actions needed in the coming year to push back the homophobes  and end the threats of violence.

Kiryo, Kim in Boaton Globe May 22 1983_edited-1

Boston Globe coverage of March, May 22, 1983. Rare photo that includes two of the three women who were to bring charges against a male harasser in the coming year, Kiryo Spooner and Kim Christensen.

SOURCES:

__Boysen, Sherman. “Organizing in Northampton: Assessing the Results.” Pioneer Valley Peoples’ Gay Alliance (PVPGA) Gayzette. March 1983.

__ “Northampton Expects a Thousand Marchers.” Pioneer Valley Peoples’ Gay Alliance (PVPGA) Gayzette. May 1983.

__”Gay, Lesbian Rights Focus of May 14 Rally: Counter-protest Possible.” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton MA. May 4, 1983.

__Spooner, Kiriyo. Letter to the [Editor] VWV. Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. May 1983.

__Christensen, Kim. GALA log of harassing phone calls, May 9, 1983.

__Fitzgerald, Maureen. ”Mayor Issues Statement on Civil Rights: Falls Short of Endorsing Gay, Lesbian March.” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton MA. May 10, 1983.

__”We Support Lesbian and Gay Liberation.” Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton MA.  May 13, 1983. Political advertisement.

__Gay and Lesbian Activists. Northampton MA. Flyer for the March. May 14, 1983. Artist Unknown.

__Northampton Citizens’ Action Network. ”Register to Vote Today!” Flyer circulated at May 14 rally.

__Sege, Irene. Northampton’s gays fight back: Reports of harassment trigger action.” Boston Globe, Boston MA. May 22, 1983.

__Goldsmith, Larry. “Peace and Pride Mark Northampton March.” Gay Community News, Boston MA. May 29, 1983.

__”the March.” Pioneer Valley Peoples’ Gay Alliance (PVPGA) Gayzette. June 1983.

__Logan, Becky. ”A March for Justice.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. June 1983 Photos by Sue Tyler.

__Benal, Jolania. The Northampton March: Meeting the Enemy.” Gay Community News, Boston MA. June 25, 1983.

 

The Backlash to the First March


Last Saturday, May 2, 2020, would have been the 39th Noho Pride parade and rally. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was cancelled and a video compilation provided a virtual substitution. It is a good time to remember the event’s birth pains.

The First March: May 15 1982

For years, people from Western Massachusetts drove to Boston to attend a Lesbian/Gay March, which started there 1970. There was an unsuccessful attempt in 1978(?) to start a similar event in Springfield. Finally on May 15, 1982, Northampton became home to Western Massachusetts’ first Lesbian/Gay March.

first march DHG May 17, 1982

Daily Hampshire Gazette front page  May 17, 1982

The first Northampton march had no official name, but was billed as being held in support of the Lesbian and Gay Community and to protest the Family Protection Act. The Family Protection Act was proposed federal legislation that would ban a wide variety of services to gays as well as people of color, immigrants and the poor. The Gay and Lesbian Activists (GALA) organizers, applying for a parade permit, estimated 70-150 people would participate. Instead, an enthusiastic 600-800+ Lesbians, gay men and allies turned out. [I have reblogged the post about that first march and you can also find it through this link. https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2017/01/19/election-reflection/ ]

 That first public outing of Lesbians and gay men in Northampton happened in an already hostile local atmosphere that had been energized by the national emergence of the New Right and election of Ronald Reagan. Lesbians had already begun to be targets for violence in the late 70s, when they first become increasingly visible.  In early 1980, Lesbians and Gay Men Against Violence, an ad hoc group, picketed two area cinemas for showing the anti-gay film “Cruising,” which featured a serial killer of gay men. One of the organizers, David Jolly, told press that seeing gay people as fair game for such media stereotyping could lead to a backlash of violence against the gay community.

Several months later, four men invaded Womonfyre Books, a women’s bookstore on Masonic Street, threatening to vandalize the store and rape the Lesbian proprietors. Later, adding to community alarm, was the reappearance of the FBI . The Northampton Law Collective (formerly the Women’s Law Collective) warned in May 1982, the month of the first march, that several people in recent months had been stopped and questioned by agents. Again, people in the community were advised by the Collective they had a right not to talk to the FBI.

There was resistance from some of the City government to the idea of that first march. The City initially refused to waive the permit fee, as was traditional for other groups wanting to parade. Only five days before the event, City Councilman Mario Mazza denied the organizers access to Memorial Hall electricity to power the rally speaker system. Accounts differ as to whether Mayor Musante overruled Mazza or if the Unitarians eventually provided electricity. What is certain is that in an early act of solidarity, the Unitarians offered an electrical connection from their building near the Pulaski Park rally site.

The night before the 1982 march, the GALA organizers were phoned with threats of violence at the event. Nonetheless, the day went well, with reports of only a bottle and, then, a raw egg being thrown at marchers. The spectators lining the streets for the march were mostly surprised at the large turnout. Some were curious or thought it was fun. Some sneered or expressed disgust. The Daily Hampshire Gazette substituted the word “homosexual” for “gay” in their coverage wherever they could while printing an editorial congratulating Northampton on its tolerance of such an historic event.

Councilor Mazza’s attempt to sabotage the first GALA March was not forgotten in the following months. Efforts began to engage local Lesbian and gay political power. In August of 1982, a voter registration drive to involve more Lesbians in town politics began. The Pioneer Valley Peoples’ Gay Alliance’s political action committee began polling those running for state office. The need for more direct activism, however, soon became evident.

Assaults On Lesbians: Autumn 1982

Accounts of the initial outbreak of violence are varied, likely because of Lesbian reluctance to be out and the private horror of the crimes. As best as can be reconstructed, during a seven week period in the autumn of 1982, at least four women (three Lesbians) were assaulted on Market, Old, and New South Streets. Three of them were raped. One was beaten so severely she lost consciousness. According to the survivors, three men in a van, who approached “dykey-looking” women asking directions, made two of the attacks. Anti-lesbian comments were made during two of the assaults. One of the women, while still recovering in the hospital, received a taunting phone call from an anonymous male. The language used by him was similar to that used in the phone harassment that became widespread in December.

rape alert vwv oct 82 Valley Women’s Voice Oct. 1982

Northampton’s Lesbian community  was close-knit. Word of the assaults, including their frequency and pattern, spread quickly by word of mouth. In October, the monthly free newspaper Valley Women’s Voice printed a rape alert and notice of a Lesbian community meeting. About 200 attended this gathering at The Valley Women’s Martial Arts’ new dojo in Thorne’s Market.  A week later, in another community meeting convened by Jean Grossholtz, Lesbians considered the violence in context of the fundamentalist resurgence against all minority groups. The facts that the KKK was making new appearances in Springfield and that the Gay Community News office in Boston had recently been torched pointed to the need for wide coalition building.

An ad hoc group calling themselves Northampton’s Town Mothers drew attention to the assaults by posting a curfew ordering all males over the age of twelve to be off the streets after 6pm on Oct. 31. Halloween was a night when violence against women and children increased. Three hundred posters, with a faux City Seal, were placed at all the routes leading into as well as around town. In November, GALA organized a march against the Klan attended by about 200 people, many of them lesbians, in addition to members of the UMass Third World Women’s Task Force and the New Jewish Agenda.

Telephone threats begin: Dec. 1982

The new round of assaults began in early December by phone. The New Alexandria Lesbian Library in Leeds had messages left on NALL’s answering machine by an unidentified male. One threatened to “get” the manager and all other “dykes” in the area. “I think you lesbians are scum. You’re the sickest things on earth. You’re the most disgusting things that ever came to Northampton. We will never accept homosexuality or lesbianism in our town anymore.” Later the same night, a threat to break into her apartment was left on NALL’s phone machine. The manager reported the calls to the police, began keeping a log of these and other incidents reported by Lesbians, and brought them to another Lesbian community meeting which began to convene weekly.

In late December and early January, the Daily Hampshire Gazette printed what some saw as anti-lesbian/gay writing, two pieces by nationally syndicated columnist Joseph Sobran. Concurrently, at least three different males made an increasing number of threatening, obscene or annoying silent breathing or hang-up calls to not only NALL but to the Valley Women’s Voice monthly newspaper, GALA and Womonfyre bookstore. These were also reported to the City Police.  Even when given copies of the taped messages, police response was that they couldn’t do anything, though they suggested a trap by the phone company might lead to evidence. Suspicious, women declined to have what they thought would be having their phones tapped. In spite of having been given, months previously, the license plate number of a van resembling that of the rapists, nothing was apparently being done about the rapes. In fact no one was ever arrested for them.

SHUN Puts Threats In Writing: Jan. 1983

Threats took a new form in mid–January of 1983, a day after Sobran’s second column appeared in the DHG. Three handwritten notes were left in the door at Womonfyre Books with further threats. Noting that they “agreed with the paper” that “gays must be persecuted,…eradicated,…never accepted,” they identified themselves as SHUN, “Stop Homosexual Unity Now.” Copies of the letters were given to police. Refusing to remain silent through lack of police action and escalating threats, Lesbians and GALA started their own letter writing campaign to state and city officials and the news media exposing the harassment. Letters were also sent to the Editor of the Gazette protesting the Sobran columns. These prompted additional anti-gay letters to the newspaper. When members of the Smith College Lesbian Alliance wrote pro-lesbian letters to the Editor, they also began to receive threatening phone calls. Some of the anti-gay letter writers later proved to have used false names in spite of the paper’s stated verification policy.

Toward the end of January, SHUN left another note at Womonfyre. It promised to “route (sic) out and expel this extremist homosexual germ by peaceful or violent means,” including burning to the ground Womonfyre bookstore and the New Alexandria Lesbian Library. The Valley Women’s Voice stopped listing their staff last names and publishing phone numbers in announcements without explicit permission. Joe Lamott, Pioneer Valley Peoples Gay Alliance coordinator, noted in the PVPGA Gayzette that the threats were obviously anti-woman and anti-lesbian, since none of the gay men who included their numbers in the group’s openly distributed newsletter were being targeted. Lou Thomas of GALA reported, however, that the lives of three openly gay men had been threatened to the degree that one of the men had had to move several times.

. Gay Community News. Boston, MA. Feb. 12, 1983.  Gay Community News. Boston, MA. Feb. 12, 1983

Meeting With the Mayor: Feb. 1983

City officials appeared ignorant of the repeated reports being made to the Northampton Police. When it was finally brought to the attention of Mayor Musante, he suggested a meeting with community representatives to discuss the issue. After various negotiations, a Feb. 8 meeting took place at Memorial Hall. About 200 community members met with Musante, the Chief of Police, the District Attorney, and the acting Editor of the Gazette to present testimony on the campaign of intimidation and demand action. Outside another 100 people – holding signs that read “Stop the Violence! No More Silence!”—held a vigil in support. They stood on the lawn of the Unitarian Society since the group had been denied a permit to rally in Pulaski Park.

feb 8 1982 vigil flyer  flyer vigil Feb 8, 1982 Northampton, MA

Over the objections of the DHG, the meeting in Memorial Hall was “off the record” to prevent outing those offering testimony about what had been occurring over the last six months.

Opening Statement reprinted in the Valley Women’s Voice March 1983

plea front vwv mar 1983

plea p8 vwv

plea p10 vwv

A list of sixteen demands for action were presented, including immediate public statements from the Mayor, DA, police, and DHG opposing the violence; coordinated police action in cooperation with the community to investigate and end the crimes; the end of “libelous” coverage in the DHG; the formation of a Mayor’s Task Force to address the harassment; the Mayor’s endorsement of the upcoming Lesbian/Gay Liberation March; and a City Ordinance prohibiting discrimination. A group of males harassing people leaving the meeting had to be told by police to leave the area of Memorial Hall.

At a press conference the next day, Mayor Musante and District Attorney W. Michael Ryan issued statements denouncing the threats and violence. A Mayor’s Task Force with city officials, four Lesbians, and two gay men was set up. On his own initiative, Ward 2 Councilor William Ames introduced a measure to the City Council condemning the violence. This was defeated by a tied vote of the Council.

Activism Expands Along With Backlash

For several weeks after the Mayor’s meeting and resulting newspaper coverage, threatening calls subsided a bit. Even as the next March was being organized, GALA formed a Human Rights Ordinance Committee to begin drafting an anti-discrimination ordinance similar to the one that had been in place in Amherst for a number of years. After a mid-March story on Womonfyre Bookstore appeared in the Gazette, however, murder and arson threats began anew. Additional targets now included the Valley Advocate, which had printed a letter from GALA, and Valley Women’s Martial Arts, which had hosted the Lesbian community meetings. In the weeks leading up to the March, SHUN repeatedly phoned, threatening violence at the event, and shouted the same at two Lesbians on the street. At least five times, volunteers put Womonfyre under 24-hour protective surveillance in case the specific new threats of arson were carried out.

The second, now officially named, Gay and Lesbian Rights March was scheduled for the second Saturday in May, the 14th, 1983.

may 83 march logo

Coming next, an account of the second march. To get an email notice when that post is published add your email address under the (free) subscribe button.

Sources:

__ undated flyer (1978?) for an initial meeting to organize a Lesbian/Gay Rights march in Springfield.

__“Cruising” Boycotts Underway. Valley Women’s Voice. March 1980. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruising_(film)

__”Womonfyre Womyn Harassed.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Sep. 1980.

__Northampton Law Collective. “Women and the Law.” Valley Women’s Voice.  Northampton MA. May 1982

__”Why Lesbians should Register to Vote. Flyer. August 1982.

__Grossholtz, Jean. “Open Letter to Lesbians.”  Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Oct. 1982.

__”WARNING: RAPE ALERT.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Oct. 1982.

__”Town Mothers Impose Curfew.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Nov. 1982.

__”March Against the Klan.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Dec. 1982.

__”NALL Threatened.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Dec. 1982.

__Dyke, Ima. ”Lesbian Community Harassed.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. Feb. 1983.

__Thomas, Lou. Letter to the Editor. Valley Advocate. Hatfield MA. Feb.2, 1983.

__ “Death threats, Harassment Continues…Community Resistance On the Rise.” Mimeographed information sheet, #3.  New Alexandria Lesbian Library. Northampton MA. Feb. 2, 1983.

__Fitzgerald, Maureen. “City officials, gay community [scheduled to] meet.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Feb. 8, 1983.

__”Public vs. Private.” Editorial. Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Feb. 8, 1983.

__”Vigil of Unity, Resistance, Self-empowerment.” Flyer. Feb. 8, 1983.

__”Orientation and Unity Statement for the Lesbian and Gay Community. Northampton, February 8, 1983.” Four page mimeograph includes agenda for the meeting with the Mayo and other officials and the sixteen demands.

__Fitzgerald, Maureen. “Members of gay community detail threats, harassment.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Feb. 9, 1983.

__Mosley, Lisa. “200 gays and lesbians tell officials to make Northampton safer for them.” Massachusetts Daily Collegian. Amherst MA. Feb. 10, 1983.

__Clark, Jil. “Northampton Lesbians Fight Hate Campaign: Secret Group Harasses Lesbians.” Gay Community News. Boston, MA. Feb. 12, 1983.

__Bradley,Debra. “City Council ballots to a tie over anti-violence measure. Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Feb. 18 1983.

__Colfer, Kim. “A Call For Action.” Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. March 1983.

Angela. “A Plea for Understanding.” Statement read at the meeting with the Mayor. Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. March 1983.

__Boysen, Sherman. “Organizing in Northampton: Assessing the Results.” PVPGA Gayzette. Northampton MA. Mar. 1983.

__Unger, Bob. “Lesbians stake out lives in usually tolerant [missing end].” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Mar. 12, 1983.

__ Fitzgerald, Maureen. “Ordinance wanted to ban discrimination.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Mar. 16, 1983.

__Lootens, Tricia.”Northampton Lesbians Unify Against Threats.” Off Our Backs. Washington D.C. March 31, 1983.

__”Anti-discrimination law discussed.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton MA. Apr. 5, 1983.

__Spooner, Kiriyo. Letter to the VWV. Valley Women’s Voice. Northampton MA. May 1983.

__”Harassment Continues.” PVPGA Gayzette. May, 1983.

 

 

 

 

 

This Year’s March is Cancelled


Northampton came late to the Revolution, both the American and the Gay, but for the last thirty-eight years a march, originally in support of lesbian and gay rights, has taken place on the second Saturday in May. That first 1982 march came twelve years after Boston’s first but was finally prompted by the egregious behavior of a US President and Republican-dominated Congress eerily reminiscent of today. That march began as an act of resistance, drawing a wide coalition of allies defending all the people newly under attack. I have previously posted that story and you may want to visit it. https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2017/01/19/election-reflection/

cropped-vwv-first-march-82_edited-11.jpg

VWV Summer 1982 photo by Kathryn Kirk

That act of resistance was not without costs. The backlash encouraged across the country by the New-Right reached onto Northampton’s streets. I will be telling that story, as well as the bravery of those who marched the second year, at the beginning of May, when we would usually have a parade and rally. Yes, this year the event is cancelled because of the COVID-9 pandemic.  Another pandemic, that of HIV/AIDS, was beginning and being ignored by a President back in 1983 as well. This blog has only briefly touched on the AIDS epidemic in the piece about former Northampton priest Robert Arpin https://fromwickedtowedded.com/2016/06/03/father-bob/.  Perhaps now is a good time to piece together an AIDS Quilt for the Valley. I would welcome online remembrances to sew together.

noho pride cancelled