Anti-transgender ‘Free Speech Bus’ provokes outrage, protests in United States

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2017, 9:29pm

For the past week, anti-transgender activists have toured the US East Coast in a big, orange “Free Speech Bus”.

Sponsored by a Spain-based advocacy group called CitizenGo and several conservative organisations, they’ve hopped from city to city to demonstrate against the notion that biological sex is different from gender identity.

“Boys are boys ... and always will be. Girls are girls ... and always will be,” is written on the bus. “You can’t change sex. Respect all.”

The Free Speech Bus is, by all appearances, there to provoke a reaction. And it’s getting one.

The bus rolled into downtown Boston on Wednesday morning, stopping at the Massachusetts State House. About two dozen protesters were there waiting for it, holding signs and chanting, “No hate, no fear, trans people are welcome here!” according to The Boston Globe.

Then the bus moved on to City Hall, where Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh, flanked by supporters, expressed his opposition.

“We will not be intimidated by discrimination or harassment,” Walsh said. “When you deny the experience of transgender ­individuals, you are denying the experience of basic human civil rights.”

As the bus crawled through the city towards Cambridge, Massachusetts, protesters stood in front of it, blocking its path.

“Words, in this setting, are ­violence,” insisted protest organiser Mason Dunn when speaking to the Globe. “We’re concerned about the health and wellness of our community.”

The bus tour organisers said they’ve come to expect such confrontation. But the visit to Boston was relatively uneventful compared to the bus’ other stops.

Gregory Mertz, US director of CitizenGo, said the organisation brought the tour to the US to protest against policies that accommodate transgender people.

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“There’s an agenda and movement that’s saying it’s okay for a boy to be a girl and that you can use whichever restroom you want,” Mertz said. “We think that’s very harmful.”

The Free Speech Bus organisers said they had prepared for conflict on their US tour.

The bus arrived in New York on March 22, stopping at Times Square, Trump Tower and the Stonewall Inn, the Manhattan bar that was the site of the 1969 riots by members of the city’s gay community. LGBT groups turned out in protest, condemning it as the “hate bus”, USA Today said.

The following day, after parking in front of the United Nations headquarters, protesters vandalised the bus, spraying it with graffiti saying “trans rights” and smashing its front window.

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After a couple of days out of ­commission, the bus travelled to New England. It skipped a stop in New Haven, Connecticut, but a group of demonstrators held a rally against it anyway, erecting banners that said, “Every breath a trans person takes is an act of ­revolution,” as the New Haven Independent reported.

The Free Speech Bus is heading south in the coming week. It’s expected to arrive in Washington on Sunday, organisers said.

Opposition to the bus hasn’t been limited to on-site protests. Game developer Aquma released an online game called Ignorance Fighter II – based on the classic martial arts game Street Fighter II – in which players punch and kick a Free Speech Bus until the tires and windows fall off.