With their new campaign of civil disobedience, ‘Gays Against Guns’ are taking on some of America’s most powerful businesses
On Monday this week, a group of LGBTQ activists staged a “die-in” at Blackrock; one of the biggest investment firms in America. The protesters – known as “Gays Against Guns” (GAG) – lay flat on the floor of the New York office lobby, equipped with a selection of neon spray-painted placards and megaphones. “People die!” they began to repeat in unison. “Blackrock invests in death.”
Despite a shocking rise in shootings this year – including one of the deadliest of all time – Blackrock is one of many US corporations still choosing to invest in gun manufacturing. The firm holds millions of dollars worth of shares in Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger; two of the most popular stockists of firearms in the US. Disturbingly, according to GAG, this connection means that Blackrock benefits from acts of gun violence. With each tragic incident, more people buy guns, and more profits are made for the company.
Gays Against Guns wants to draw attention to this fact. In the wake of June’s Pulse nightclub shooting, the group agreed to form a “giant angry contingent” on Facebook, which would follow in the same footsteps as the “rude” and “rash” ACT UP movement of the 1980s. “(We wanted) to tell NYC and the world that we were FED UP with the gun industry's power to block all gun-safety legislation and that THE GAYS were now taking them on,” explains Tim Murphy, the group’s media coordinator. We caught up with him to find out more about their mission plan.
What is the GAG plan of action? How will your approach be different from other gun violence prevention groups?
Tim Murphy: There has never been a GVP group that took to the streets and demonstrated against the gun complex chain of death (which is made up of gun investors, makers, lobby groups like the NRA and their puppets in Congress) in a public, loud, angry, and theatrical way. They've mostly worked through polite congressional visits and petitions. The time for politeness when it comes to fighting for GVP is OVER. It hasn't worked. The gun industry just loves it when people hold a quiet, weepy vigil after every massacre and sing “All you need is love.” It keeps the focus off entities like BlackRock, Cerberus, Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger; the NRA and the NSSF – all of whom are deeply invested in gun death because it ups their power and profits.
You staged a ‘die-in’ against Blackrock on Monday. How did it go?
Tim Murphy: It went great! We're still getting a ton of press and the photos and videos from our very loud, public shaming of BlackRock right in their own atrium in midtown are all over the Internet. BlackRock says that its “hands are tied” in terms of dumping their gun stock but that's not true. They buy and sell stock all the time. They'd have to have the spine to stand up to their clients who enjoy the profits those death stocks bring in. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink prides himself on running a “progressive” and LGBT-friendly company. We've put them on notice that you can't claim LGBT love as long as you're profiting off death stocks.
“As gays, we've been shamed in our lifetime... so we know ALL about how to shame you, honey! We LIVE for it!” – Gays Against Guns
Why did you choose Blackrock in particular?
Tim Murphy: They are one of the top three shareholders of Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger, makers of guns used in mass shootings. They're up there with companies like Cerberus who use their bland corporate facades to hide the fact that, with every passing shooting and the rush on guns that follows, they buy MORE AND MORE stocks in guns. This isn't even accidental! They are calculatedly profiting from shootings made possible by easy access to hyper-deadly weapons. We have to let investors everywhere know that they are investing in a fund that invests in death weapons – and urge those investors to pull out or to pressure BlackRock itself to pull out.
What other GAG protests do you have planned to follow this up? Who is the next target?
Tim Murphy: We're looking at Cerberus, a private equity group that owns The Freedom Group, makers of guns used in various mass shootings. They've “tried” to sell the Freedom Group, but they “just can't,” so, oops, they keep on profiting, how unlucky for them! And we're also looking at mainstream companies like FedEx and Visa that court LGBTQ dollars but still give special cuts and discounts to NRA members and gun buyers. Uh-uh, no, Mary. You can't have it both ways. Break up with guns or we break up with you – in a really loud, public way.
Why, after so many tragic incidents of gun violence, do you think there is still such a stigma around tighter gun control?
Tim Murphy: Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans want basic common-sense gun reform like a ban on assault weapons, which no civilian needs, and universal background checks on ALL gun sales, including those at gun shows and online. Fewer households than ever have guns now. Which is exactly why the gun industry dumps money on the NRA. It stokes the fears of Americans who feel like they’re having their guns taken away, because they have to sell as many guns as they can in a dwindling market. They're so amoral. The sad thing is that they've played people so well into thinking that it's about their “gun freedom” and “Second Amendment Rights.” People think they are holding onto these time-honored all-American values and they don't even realise they're pawns in a desperate marketing bid from the gun industry that the NRA carries out for them. It's sad.
What are your main concerns for the future?
Tim Murphy: I think we have the same concerns as any new organisation, which is figuring out how to grow, prioritise, and sustain ourselves. We have amassed A LOT of support from all around the country in only two months because, let's face it, the vast majority of Americans are fed up with the chokehold the gun industry has on Congress and they're happy to see a bunch of queers and freaks come along who are angry at bullies with money! We have all the time in the world to make life even just a fraction as miserable for the gun industry as it's made life for people who've lost loved ones to gun death. As gays, we've been shamed in our lifetime... so we know ALL about how to shame you, honey! We LIVE for it!