Bash Back!

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Bash Back! was a network of radical, anarchist queer projects within the United States. Formed in Chicago in 2007 to facilitate a convergence of radical trans and gay activists from around the country,[1] Bash Back! sought to critique the ideology of the mainstream LGBT movement, which the group saw as assimilation into the dominant institutions of a heteronormative society. Bash Back! was noticeably influenced by the anarchist movement and radical queer groups, such as ACT UP and Gay Shame, and took inspiration from the Stonewall and San Francisco's White Night riots.[2]

Since 2007, other chapters had formed and had carried out various direct actions across the US. In July 2011, after a ruling involving the 2008 incident at Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan, Andy Field, former Bash Back president for the Lansing chapter stated, "There is no Bash Back! anymore," due to "internal politics."[3]

"Points of unity"[edit]

According to their website, anyone could form a Bash Back! chapter as long as they adhered to the basic points of unity:

  1. Fight for liberation. Nothing more, nothing less. State recognition in the form of oppressive institutions such as marriage and militarism are not steps toward liberation but rather towards heteronormative assimilation.
  2. A rejection of capitalism, imperialism, and all forms of state power.
  3. Actively oppose oppression both in and out of the "movement." No oppressive behavior is to be tolerated.
  4. Respect a diversity of tactics in the struggle for liberation. Also, do not solely condemn an action on the grounds that the state deems it to be illegal.


First collective action[edit]

The first Bash Back! Convergence was held in April 2008[clarification needed]. The goal of the convergence was to form ideas for the then-upcoming protests at the DNC and the RNC, and discuss the formation of new Bash Back! chapters in other regions of the country. As a result, groups in Milwaukee, Memphis, Denver, Lansing, and upstate New York sprung up as new chapters.

Together, members of the newly formed Bash Back! groups took to the streets of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood in protest of assimilationist politics, trans-exclusion in the gay community, and recent police assaults on trans and queer people. The unpermitted march was eventually dispersed when a crowd surrounded the Chicago Police's Addison/Halsted headquarters, reading aloud statistics of trans and queer people killed by police brutality.[4]

June 2008 Milwaukee Pridefest[edit]

Bash Back! Milwaukee Displaying Banner at Milwaukee Pridefest

In June 2008, the neo-Nazi organization the National Socialist Movement, released a statement that announced its intention to demonstrate at Milwaukee's annual Pridefest as a statement that the Nazis do not support "the promotion of homosexuality in [their] community".[5] In response, Bash Back! Milwaukee planned a confrontation of the hate group.[6] A group of more than twenty confronted members of the NSM, carrying a banner proclaiming "These Faggots Kill Fascists."[7] The action prompted Pridefest organizers to criticize Bash Back!. Members of Bash Back! Milwaukee in turn denounced the organizers as betraying the queer community, stating "They would rather see well protected neo-nazis than a well-defended queer and trans community. Nobody will protect us if not ourselves."[8]

July 2008 Chicago Pride events[edit]

Bash Back! Chicago carried out a number of actions during their city's Pride Weekend in 2008. The first was participation in the annual Chicago Dyke March in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Bash Back!'s contingent in the march focused on resistance to gentrification in the Pilsen community,[9] with a large lead banner stating "Bash Back Against Gentrification!"[10]

In addition, members of Bash Back! also took part in Chicago's larger Chicago Pride Parade. Bash Back! Chicago wheeled a cage through the parade containing a member dressed as Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley, whom the group believes is responsible for cutting AIDS funding, turning a blind eye to police torture and brutality, and supporting gentrification. Simultaneously, members of Bash Back! also distributed barf bags with slogans written on them such as "Corporate Pride Makes Me Sick," a statement about the commercial and assimilative intentions of mainstream gay culture.[11]

2008 Memphis Pride Festival[edit]

In 2008, Mid-South Pride, organizers of the Memphis Pride Festival, announced that the 2008 festival would be co-anchored by Nike and called the move an "expansion opportunity for the GLBT citizens of the city". Outraged, Bash Back! Memphis wheatpasted fliers along Cooper Street[clarification needed] the night before the march condemning Nike's sweatshop practices and mainstream gay culture. The following day[when?], as the Memphis Pride march proceeded under the Cooper-Young railroad trestle, several BB! members dropped a banner reading "Queer Liberation, not Queer Consumerism".[citation needed]

August 2008 Democratic National Convention[edit]

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Bash Back! Denver organized a protest of a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights lobby group. Bash Back! Denver criticized the HRC for its policies of trans exclusion in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the HRC's support for corporate interests and the Iraq War. The action ended in the detention of four activists at the scene and the arrest of one.[12]

Bash Back! also organized a "trans and queer bloc" as part of the larger black bloc of the Anti-Capitalista Day of Action. The event ended in the detention of most participants, and several bystanders.[13]

The following day, Bash Back! continued to counter-protest, especially against conservatives holding signs reading things like "homo-sex is a sin" by having a queer kiss-in.[14]

September 2008 Republican National Convention[edit]

At the 2008 Republican National Convention, members of various Bash Back! groups from around the country participated in a road blockade as a part of Unconventional Action's direct action strategy to disrupt the convention. BB seized an intersection in downtown St. Paul and blocked cars and delegate buses from passing by having a festive dance party. The blockade was eventually met with force by mounted police and the activists were forced to disperse. Soon afterwards, members of Bash Back! also confronted the Westboro Baptist Church when they appeared at the intersection where Bash Back! conducted its action.[15]

October 2008 Annual Human Rights Campaign Dinner[edit]

On October 4, 2008, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) held its annual dinner in Washington DC. Bash Back! DC confronted the organization once again for publicly not supporting a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House of Representatives in 2007.[16] About 20 protestors gathered for a dance party at the front doors of the fundraiser with signs such as “HRC Is Not For Me” and “Stonewall Was a Riot”.[17] Dandee Lyon, a member of Bash Back! DC, stated that the reason for the protest was that "assimilation will not save us, it will only end in the decimation of our community. Society must change to accommodate us, queers and transfolk must refuse assimilation and cultural erasure at the hands of the homonormative gay elite and build a world where we can liberate ourselves."[18]

November 2008 protest at Mt. Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan[edit]

On November 9, 2008, a contingent from Bash Back!'s Lansing chapter picketed outside Mount Hope Church, because the church promoted traditional biblical strictures concerning homosexuality. Meanwhile, several Bash Back! members entered the building disguised in plain-clothes and disrupted a worship service. During the late morning service the group dropped a rainbow banner bearing the slogan "It's Okay to Be Gay! Bash Back!" from the sanctuary balcony and showered a thousand fliers exhorting teenagers in the congregation to "embrace and explore" their feelings, and assuring them there are many organizations supportive of gays that "enable you to be who you truly are." [19][20][21] The group set off a fire alarm when exiting the building.[22]

According to Bash Back! News, Mount Hope Church was targeted for its fundamentalist belief that homosexuality is a sin, for its production of "hell houses" that demonize gays, and for its hosting of conferences of "ex-gays."[20][21][23]

In May 2009, Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit against Bash Back! on behalf of the church, under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.[24][25] Those sued refused to name others who participated in the protest, so Mount Hope Church issued a subpoena to Riseup Networks in an attempt to obtain the names of email account holders who the church believed either participated in the action or knew who did. As part of a settlement, the activists agreed to a permanent injunction preventing them from disrupting any religious services in the US. They also agreed to pay the church $2,750 in damages. The district court entered a default judgment against Bash Back! and Bash Back! Lansing, and closed the case.[26]

2008 "Avenge Duanna" Campaign[edit]

In November 2008, to coincide with transgender day of remembrance, Bash Back! groups began staging actions in memory of Duanna Johnson, a trans woman who was brutally beaten by Memphis police officers and murdered while in the process of suing the police department. Many within the Memphis queer community are convinced that the police had a hand in her murder. Bash Back! Philly shut down downtown Philadelphia in a reclaim-the-streets style action,[27] Bash Back! Milwaukee dropped a banner on the UW-M campus reading "R.I.P. Duanna", and Bash Back! Memphis had a hearse and casket delivered to the house of Bridges McRae, one of Duanna's assailants.[28]

2008 California Proposition 8[edit]

An affiliate group of Bash Back! claimed credit for pouring glue into the locks of an LDS church building and spray painting on its walls. An internet posting signed by Bash Back!’s Olympia, Washington chapter said: “The Mormon church ... needs to be confronted, attacked, subverted and destroyed.”[29] According to the Chicago Tribune, the acts of vandalism against the LDS Church appear to be in retaliation for support of Proposition 8.[29][dead link] The Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the "defacement and destruction of property."[30]

October 2009 vandalism of Human Rights Campaign headquarters[edit]

On October 11, 2009 the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington, DC was vandalized by radical queer activists who threw pink and black paint and glitter at the building and left graffiti reading "Quit Leaving Queers Behind".[31] The vandalism came on the eve of the National Equality March, the biggest national queer political mobilization since 2000 and hours after President Barack Obama gave a speech at an HRC fundraiser. A group called Queers Against Assimilation posted a statement about the action on the website of radical queer network Bash Back!. The statement called the attack an act of "glamdalism."

September 2013 confrontation of Canadian men's rights activists[edit]

On September 27 at 2:30PM, a workshop called "Time to Bash Back"[32] was held by Rocio Velasquez of "OPIRG Toronto", a group at the University of Toronto.[33] It concluded 2.5 hours prior to a 7pm lecture given later that night by Dr. Miles Groth entitled "Caring About University Men - Why We Need Campus Men’s Centres in a Time of Crisis".[34]

The following day (September 28) a group of about 25 people bringing "Bash Back" banners[35] attended an 11am "Men and Boys in Crisis" rally in Queen's Park, Toronto held to celebrate Groth's lecture. The Bash Back protesters accused the MRAs of being anti-gay, racist and sexist. Roughly twenty police officers attended Queen's Park to keep them separate from the 150 rallying people, as reported by Erin Pizzey,[36] who commented "this is the first time I can remember men’s rights activists gathering together and protesting".


There were documented Bash Back! chapters in each of the following cities and areas:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bash Back Chicago!. "Radical Transfolk and Queers Converge In Chicago April 5th". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  2. ^ "About BB! News". Archived from the original on 2008-12-24. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  3. ^ Balaskovitz, Andy. "Bash Back! resolved". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  4. ^ "Bash Back! Marches in Chicago". Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  5. ^ "Milwaukee Summerfest". National Socialist Movement. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  6. ^ Krulos, Tea. "Neo Nazis, Riot Gear, and the Pink Bloc". Archived from the original on August 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  7. ^ boozie, m. "Pictures From Milwaukee Pridefest". Archived from the original on 2008-06-15. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  8. ^ "Bash Back! MKE Statement About Pridefest and Nazi Confrontation". Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  9. ^ Nair, Yasmin. "Dyke March: Different neighborhood, same message". Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  10. ^ "Bash Back Pride Pt.1: The Dyke March!". Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  11. ^ Nair, Yasmin. "Bash Back! makes point at parade". Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  12. ^ "DNC: 4 Detained, 1 Arrested @ Bash Back! Demo Against HRC". Retrieved 2008-10-16.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Video of the Anti-Capitalista march, and subsequent arrests". Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  14. ^ "DNC Protests: Day Three". Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  15. ^ ""Act up, Bash Back!" An analysis of the radical queer organizing surrounding the RNC and DNC". Retrieved 2008-10-16.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Miga, Andrew. "Ted Kennedy pushing non-trans inclusive ENDA" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  17. ^ Guerilla Radio 88.1 FM, WSQT. "Bash Back! Protests $250-A-Plate Human Rights Campaign Dinner". Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  18. ^ Lyon, Dandee. "Bash Back! DC Confronts HRC Assimilationism". Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  19. ^ Retrieved 2013-11-01. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  20. ^ a b [1] Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ a b Harris, Nathan. (November 19, 2008). "One Week Later". City Pulse, p. 6
  22. ^ Alex Goldsmith. "Federal Court Rules Against Lansing Gay Activist Group". Retrieved 2014-06-29.
  23. ^ "Bash Back! Lansing: Why We Chose Mount Hope Church - Infoshop News". 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  24. ^ Retrieved 2013-11-01. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  25. ^ McNamara, Neal (2009-06-08). "Bash Back retains lawyer in protest suit". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  26. ^ Tim Phillips, "Homophobic Church Persuades Appellate Court to Overrule Protest-Related Sanctions Award", Activist Defense, November 27, 2012.
  27. ^ "Bash Back! Philly disrupts traffic in response to trans killings". Archived from the original on 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  28. ^ "Bash Back! Memphis kicks off "Avenge Duanna" campaign". Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  29. ^ a b "Radical Gay Activist Group Plans More Disruptions". Chicago Tribune. November 20, 2008. Archived from the original on November 16, 2009.
  30. ^ "ADL Condemns Criminal Activity Targeting Religious Institutions That Supported Proposition 8". Anti-Defamation League. 2008-11-10. Archived from the original on 2008-12-20.
  31. ^ HRC Building Vandalized Lez Get Real Retrieved 12 October 2009
  32. ^ OPIRG September 23-27 Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine. 2:30-4:30 PM: "Time to Bash Back: Radical Queer & Trans Organizing"
  33. ^ "OPIRG mandate". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  34. ^ Dr. Miles Groth at U of T: “Why We Need Campus Men’s Centres” Archived 2013-10-02 at the Wayback Machine. retrieved September 29, 2013
  35. ^ Sept 28, 2013 - #BashBackTO protests #MRA @ men's rights rally in Toronto, 9 minute news clip uploaded September 28, 2013 by Civilian Media
  36. ^ September 28, 2013 Revelations with Erin 7/12: Rally in Toronto