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Genital Integrity DC Rally
Organizer Amber Craig's Report

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by Amber Craig, Coordinator of Genital Integrity Week

After months of fretting over how things would turn out, I am so delighted over the huge success Genital Integrity Awareness Week was.  I truly think all attendees benefited significantly, and tens of thousands of tourists, as well as all of the legislators have been educated. My special thanks to Marilyn Milos for arranging presenters at the conference, Dan Bollinger for coordinating the media campaign and David Wilson for coordinating the marches.

On Friday most of us arrived.  It was so nice to see old friends and meet new faces. Saturday began the conference.  92 people had registered ahead of time, and an additional 14 people registered at the door - what a delightful surprise!  The room we reserved held 100 people and it was a pleasure to see standing room only.  All of the speakers were phenomenal, they all shared something different and important to this issue.  It was nice to have threespeakers mainly working on eradicating female circumcision, and for Marilynto devote a little time to the Intersexed Society of America, as all issues of genital integrity really need to be addressed with the American public. A personal highlight for me was meeting and listening to Jim Price, as I had devoted so much time and energy to helping save Matthew.

 Sunday began a little hectic with trying to get 100 people from the suburbs of Virginia to downtown Washington, DC in time for the march.  Ultimately, we all got there.  We had a little time at the Ellipse for pictures and admiration of all the different signs and banners.  There were several children attending the march this day.  We were supposed to have a permit to march in the streets the whole way (over 2 miles), unfortunately, the police around the Ellipse were not very cooperative or helpful.  We ended up starting the march on the curb.  We took up an entire city block!  Boy did traffic slow down to gawk at us - lots of horn honking and thumbs up, lots of pointing from bus passengers - we definitely gathered attention.  The first set of police wouldn't help us out at all, but as we walked along, the police (different police) became increasingly helpful.  A little bit up the street, the officers began blocking side street traffic for us so that we could cross.  Then, about a mile and a half up, some new police were aware we were supposed to be in the streets and they pulled their cars into the lane and blocked off traffic - from this point forward we marched in the streets and had appropriate police escort.  I know I speak for many when I say that the final few yards as we approached the steps was truly exhilarating!  When the steps came in full view we all began chanting "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Circumcision's got to go."  We marched up the steps and turned around with all of our many banners. 

There were thousands of tourists that saw us - lots of tourists were taking pictures, pointing and talking among themselves.  WOW!  There is an appropriate time and place for everything - the point of being on the steps was to alert the American public that circumcision is a human rights violation - you always target your message to your audience.  So many of the tourists were young and impressionable, and they all have access to the internet.  Now is the time to reach them with the message.  We stood on the steps for about a half an hour, chanting and shouting - our message was very clear - it's time for this brutal practice to end. Then everyone headed back to the hotel for a luncheon with Kristen O'Hara and the second day of the conference.  Again, there was a great line up of speakers.  We wrapped up the conference a little after 10:30 pm.  It was a long, but very rewarding day.

Monday was another hectic morning.  Several people left Sunday night or that morning, so far fewer people came into DC for the second day of demonstration.  Still, many individuals met in the Ellipse to march again. I and a few others headed straight to the Capitol to attempt to set up a Genital Integrity Education Fair.  Lisa Stephon and Tim Shane willingly volunteered to tackle weekday traffic to haul 12 tables, tons of boxes of literature, backboards and other necessities to the Capitol. Little did I know that seemingly hurricane force winds would make setting up tables and backboards a near impossibility.  Nonetheless we tried.  We set up 12 tables, but they kept blowing over, which made setting up literature all but impossible.   We tied and anchored the backboards to the tables, but they too kept blowing all over the place, despite being tied down, some actually ripped in half because the wind was so strong.  Oh well, next year, forget the tables and backboard, we'll just stick with passing out pens, pins, bumper stickers and small cards - this was extremely effective.  After two hours of painstaking effort, we did have a few tables up and lots of banners up.  About this time, the marchers arrived.  From 11-5:30 the huge "Stop Infant Circumcision" sign remained on the Capitol steps - tens of thousands of tourists could only take a picture of the Capitol with that banner in it - I can't wait until these students get their film developed - should be quite the talk with mom and dad.  For some reason, the police did not allow any more banners on the steps on Monday.  So all the other banners came over to the grass area and were displayed there for the remainder of the day. The "Arrest Penis Butcher Doctors" truthfully was simply the best - every student wanted their picture in front of it, and it sure was a conversation piece.  I assure you that there was a not a single DC visitor on Monday that didn't talk about circumcision.  This is what we want, and need to happen. A slogan like that would not be appropriate in a legislative meeting, or staffing a booth, where more conservative approaches are needed - but in the middle of American democracy - this is what democracy is all about. American people need to be aware that there are angry males out there, and this is okay, it doesn't hurt our cause at all.  Now, if these angry males take their anger inside when trying to start a dialog with legislators or expectant parents - That's when it hurts our cause - the anger needs to be on the streets - where protests belong.  Politeness, politically correctness, etc...are the facades we need to be under when trying to convince people of power that we know what we are talking about.  Anger is not convincing in a one on one basis, calm rational, factual information is.

I hope everyone can see the differences, and realize that two different situations call for two different hats - some people can't wear both hats and that is why some individuals chose not to protest and some protesters chose not to visit legislators.  I think the best part about this day was seeing Laurie Evan's daughter, age 14, and Tim Shane's son, age 15 working the teenage crowds.  They were real troopers.  They both went up and down the long lines of teenagers distributing pens and information.  The teenagers seemed thrilled to take it from other teenagers. Alex Harrison's www.uncutentertainment.org  pens were a big bit. The chaperons were a mixed bag - some wanting the info and having no problem with their charges mobbing us, and others that yelled at us to stay away from their kids and set up physical block to prevent them from taking info - that personally probably worked to our advantage - because the bigger taboo the chaperons made of this subject, the more likely these students are to be curious and look up our info later on the web.

The activities wrapped up on Tuesday with approximately 20 intactivists going to visit legislators.  Some individuals went on Monday because they had to leave.  As to be expected, there has been a mixed bag of how the Medicaid report has been received.  Some legislators (or their assistants receiving the information) are intact or have children who are intact, and were delighted to get the information.  Others were far more negative --"America is not ready for this." "Doesn't circumcision prevent AIDS in Africa." But please remember folks - we don't need to convince all of congress - we only need to convince one - legislators attach special amendments and "pet projects" all the time as riders.  As all 535 members of congress received the Medicaid report documenting tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid waste, and as the government funds 25% of all circumcisions - this needs to be our focus.  Please do your part by writing a letter in support of legislation that would ban government funding of non-medically necessary circumcisions. (addresses at www.senate.gov  and www.house.gov ).  And we will probably make progress quicker at a state level, so please begin working on contacting your state representatives.  If you have not requested so yet, please e-mail me and I'll send you copies of the report to mail to your state legislators.  If you want the report and a petition for your own personal interest please mail a 9 1/2 " X 12" envelop with $2 postage to NOCIRC NC PO Box 5081 Chapel Hill, NC 27514.

In summary, this was a wonderful educational experience that benefited all. Marilyn Milos was so moved by the display on the Capitol that she announced that NOCIRC would be holding the 2002 Symposium in Washington, DC the last weekend in March to enable us to march on April 1 again.  Mark your calendars and start planning now!  We learned a lot this year and next year will be even bigger and better.

 Amber Craig

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