You know that old expression, A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, what about, A picture is worth an incredible memory and a slight change in history?
Here’s something you rarely hear a person say: My last arrest was in 1998, at the behest of the executive director of Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center, Chris Bartlett. I just discovered a picture of that demonstration and emailed it to Chris.
Here’s the story: A local TV station was doing what can be called toilet coverage of the LGBT community and Chris wanted to react, so along with a group of young activists, he came up with the idea to toilet- paper their station.
Chris enlisted my help by explaining that they needed someone who was experienced at protests and being arrested.
At that time, I had just adopted my nephew Jeffrey and was overwhelmed. Chris was relentless and I agreed.
My nephew, who was in his teens and fresh from living with his mother in Florida, wanted to join. My first parental decision was: Hell, no! But we did allow him to watch from a car.
The station with all the toilet paper looked great, and then the police arrived, with a yelling news manager. So they took us off to jail.
The police treated us well and by the time we were processed, the station manager was attempting to find a path to make the whole situation just go away.
In court, we were charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and who knows what else. The station, the judge and everyone wanted to end it, so our lawyer made an agreement that we’d be found guilty and get community service.
In open court, as this was being worked out between the lawyers and judge, I stood up and said, “I have no problem with being found guilty since we did what you charge, and I’m very proud we did it and want that on my record. Our lawyer seemed bemused by his client, but if you’re going to give us community service, I feel it should include LGBT nonprofits, and if we have done the required hours in the past for our community, that should be counted as well.”
The judge quickly agreed to the sentence, one he had never handed out before.
Fast-forward to last year during the election season for district attorney in Philadelphia. People kept asking me whether I knew the major candidates. My reply was that I’ve never met any of them, to my knowledge.
After seeing that long-ago picture, Chris Bartlett wrote me back: “Do you remember that Larry Krasner was our lawyer?” No I didn’t, and he’s the new District Attorney, and now on the list of illustrious lawyers who have gotten me out of civil-disobedience charges; Gloria Allred, Al Gordon and Hal Weiner among them.
Larry, you’re in good company.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.