Bil Browning

Elderly lesbian assaulted at HRC gala by hired thugs

Filed By Bil Browning | July 28, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, protesting HRC, transgender

Catherine Cusic, a 63 year old lesbian from San Francisco, was forcibly evicted from this weekend's HRC dinner gala after she stood up during Joe Solmonese's keynote speech. P1000504.jpgAccording to witnesses and Ms. Cusic, while she had leaflets in her hand about HRC's ENDA debacle, she had not given any out before hired security grabbed her by the arms and literally dragged her from the room, down a flight of stairs and threw her onto the street. Ms. Cusic documented her injuries after not being allowed to regain her footing.

She wrote an account of her experiences for Bilerico Project and included photos of her injuries taken by a physician.

I requested a comment from HRC, but didn't get a reply. I'll update the post if I do.

[Update 5:00pm:] I mistakenly identified Ms. Cusic incorrectly as a transgender woman. I have corrected this in the story.

[Update 2 6:00pm:] The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement moments ago in response.

The woman, now identifying herself as Catherine Cusic, was removed by security from the San Francisco dinner after disrupting the event. As with every dinner, it is our policy that if a person is being disruptive they'll be escorted from the room. The series of events as described by Cusic differ greatly than what was witnessed by guests. Cusic stood up, walked from her table to the front of the ballroom while the event was in progress and began yelling and disrupting guests. She was asked to stop and leave the ballroom by security personnel. After she refused to follow instruction, she was escorted from the room and continued yelling all the way to the hotel exit.

More on this stoy including eye witness reports at: Back and forth on the HRC dinner dustup

I've taken the liberty of editing this slightly to remove parts that weren't necessary for the story and corrected some basic punctuation. Emphasis is Catherine's.

As many of you know there was a large protest Sat p.m. in front of the St Francis Hotel in Union Square, We were to here to protest The Human Rights Campaign's fundraising event. The reason for the protest was because HRC will not support including the entire Queer community in proposed legislation to end discrimination against our community - ENDA. HRC favors legislating this civil right for Gay Men and lesbians alone. They state that others must wait until the US public is ready to accept them, (no transgender or any others may apply).

Our community - allied with organized labor (quite queer as well) - kept every elected official from attending this travesty of "Human Rights" except, for some unknown reason, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey. This left two transgender speakers, the staff of HRC and Lynn Woolsey.

Another part of the protest was for 2 people to buy tickets and peacefully leaflet the crowd. Unfortunately the tickets were expensive and cheapest ones ($125.00) sold out quickly. So only one person went in - me. As you all know I am nearing 64 and not as lithe as i once was (like right after the Korean War).

So I went in, under dressed but undaunted. I circulated and had some good conversations with some decent people who were confused about the protest and didn't understand about the ENDA legislation. Nor did they seem to know that the event had been either boycotted or "ducked" (by people like Dennis Herrera, Jeff Adachi, Antonio Villaraigosa, Kamela Harris, Carole Migden, Mark Leno, the entire Board of Supervisors, Congresswoman Pelosi (a duck), Mayor Newsom (a goose) - and others.
We sat down to eat, 1000 people, the lights went down and a program that would have put Shell Oil to shame began. The faces of Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk flashed on multiple screens. Diego Sanchez gave his talk (which sounded to me like he was saying that we should include everyone on the community in ENDA, but I am naive and he did buy me a Johnny Walker. Next was Joe Solmonese, Executive Gay Man of HRC. So this was it.

The following is what happened to the best of my recollection. I have been in a little shock since then and occasionally I remember things I didn't remember before:

As it was pretty dark, I just quietly started walking to the front of the room, intending to leaflet. As I started I heard a security man behind me say into his microphone, "We have some movement here (very on patrol in Baghdad)." I was about 3/4 ways to the front when 2-3 (I think the final number was 3) large men came up behind me and said, "You have to leave." I asked why, I showed my ticket to them. They repeated, "You have to leave," a few more times.

Clearly this was the time to start to exit, although I had been given no reason other than 3 threatening men looming... At this point I had not distributed a single leaflet or spoken a word except to security. Unjust as it was, it became obvious that threatening men were going to prevail over justice. So, I said OK and began to hand out my leaflets on my way out. Before a single page could land on a table, both my arms were jerked back VERY HARD so that the leaflets flew out of my hands. My right arm was twisted behind my back and my right wrist was crushed in fully bent. The old police technique of hurt them but don't leave a mark! Well, I guess they flunked that part of their security training (which is maybe why they work for this company). They left plenty of marks!!

At this point there was no more reason to remain a lady and I began to call out something like "shame on you, we all go forward together or not at all." At least that is what I would like to think I was saying - I might have been saying something less lady like such as, "Fuck you, you white corporate self hating *##*#*#."

Soon I was yelling,"Stop, you're hurting me." Now this is often a good tactic - but in this case it was a mild understatement... I soon found myself on the ground and being dragged through the exit.

HERE IS WHAT I FIND THE MOST APPALLING PART OF THE EVENING! (other than their politics and tacky black tie). I am older than 80% of the people who were in that room. The room had a minority of women but still several women, Congresswoman Woolsey (a person with a decent reputation) was present along with 2 transgender people. However, no one responded to my screams of pain and when I went down I screamed for help. I asked that somebody help me and stop them (security) from hurting me. NOT ONE PERSON SPOKE UP! NOT ONE PERSON FOLLOWED US OUT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED. Who are these people???

So there is more to it than that. they jerked me to my feet, frog marched [me] through part of the hotel, down the stairs (off my feet again at this point) and pushed me out the Post Street door. The St Francis refused to allow me to file an injury report and also escorted me out.




  1. A group that calls itself a Human Rights Group and lobbies with millions of dollars to deny civil rights to any other queers except themselves!
  2. It is about any group that hires thugs to enforce "security" at their events-thugs hired from outside the area, who have no accountability as would on site (union) hotel security.


  1. Call or email HRC and protest their legislative policies, leaving transgender people behind and protest their use of "mini-Blackwater" security thugs. Tell them to support ENDA legislation that includes everyone. Tell them not to use hired goons to try to silence their critics. Call 1 (800) 777-4723 and ask for Joe Solmonese or Josh Meyer (he is their "event coordinator" - ie he hired the goons). He told me that he was in the room when I was dragged out and had no answer when I asked him why he let that happen to me.
  2. Call Lynn Woolsey, "feminist" and "liberal," and ask her what she was doing while a 63 year old woman was assaulted in front of her. Tell her to support an inclusive ENDA. If she says that she does, ask why she was the only elected official at HRC's event. (415) 507-9554 (or her campaign office 415 454-3316) or better yet her DC office - (202) 225-5161
  3. Perhaps the City of San Francisco should discuss the use of these private companies to terrorize people. The Police Commission (who oversees private security policies and The Human Rights Commission will be asked to investigate this - please urge them to do so.

Finally - don't dis my flabby triceps. Hasta la victoria siempre!

PS - Thanks to Supervisors Ammiano and Peskin for their support.

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She's a Korean War veteran? I want this woman on TAVA's board. Contact me, Catherine.

Oooops. The math doesn't work out. She was too young to be in the Korean War. BUT, I would still want her to contact me.

Is this the same woman that they identified as Lesbian earlier?

And how does she identify, if she is the same person?

UdontKnowme | July 28, 2008 4:10 PM

Maura, a person can be both trans and lesbian. They are not exclusive.

Seems pretty horrific; are there any witness accounts yet since HRC is not going to respond; but that's standard for organizations when there is a charge of this severity. Anyhow; HRC always seems to be its own PR problem.

Thomas Johnson | July 28, 2008 4:11 PM

Who thinks it is a wise idea to stand up and walk toward the stage as Joe Solmonese is speaking--multiple threats were made against Joe in the weeks preceding this event and it should be NO SURPRISE that there was security in the room to watch movement and disarm potential threats.
As for her being peacful and quiet. Give me a break. She was yelling out and passing out derogatory leaflets.
The T community cried and screamed about visible police presence at the Houston dinner so notice that was changed. If your community is phoning in threats against Joe's life, you should not be walking to the stage in a dark room while he is speaking!

Maura - do you still identify as Irish or as a New Yorker?

Johnny Nox | July 28, 2008 4:20 PM

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I would hope anyone who still gives money to HRC would seriously consider stopping their donations now.

What will it take to get Joe S. fired?

This one's a lesbian -- see her description of the event on my blog. But I think she'd be honored by the mistaken identification as trans -- she's always been on the side of those who struggle for their rights.

Ethan - Atlanta | July 28, 2008 4:41 PM

Why would anyone stop giving money to HRC over the fact that a protestor was trying to disrupt a private meeting and was removed??? Come on people use your heads... She knew what would happen and probably hoped it would so that everyone would say ...that horrible HRC look what they did to that poor ole woman..they're terrible lets get em...

Come one use your heads.....

I guess those who chained themselves to university admin doors to protest the war in Vietnam were wrong? How about the suffragettes in the 1920s were wrong to do their protesting? How about Selma, Alabama? How about the Civil Rights riots? What about the protests the WWII veterans had in DC because of how the government treated them after the war. But, let one lone trans woman have the guts to confront Joe with leaflets at an HRC event and somehow that's just so terribly wrong. Give me an f-ing break.

Bah humbug!

Midtowner | July 28, 2008 4:46 PM

So Monica, next time your speaking a paid event, and I have issues with you I can disrupt it and expect you to allow me to do so? I dont believe everythihg you do or appreciate the way you do your ok with that???

You are welcome to try, if you wish to travel to events out of Atlanta. I'm not involved locally any longer. I hope you got the money for air fare. It'll be DC in Feb next. See you there.

Midtowner | July 28, 2008 4:57 PM

cool thanks for the invite...we can go for drinks after :-)

Joe Solmonese will never be fired for anything to do with ENDA. After all, he's doing exactly what the HRC Executive Board wants him to do so why should they fire him?

Joe will go when the HRC Executive Board decides he's not promoting their elitist and divisive agenda effectively enough, the same way as all "social justice" organizations that fill their donation coffers by demonizing minority groups unlike themselves decide to make changes in leadership.

Still, this battle has now progressed to a new level. Anti-transgender violence, a brutal and unecessary attack, committed against an elderly transwoman by security thugs on the HRC payroll.

An elderly transwoman, beaten and thrown out into street by HRC thugs for speaking her mind. You just can't make this shit up.

And they wonder why this community is so disgusted by this organization and it's despicable behavior.

I have corrected the post to identify Ms. Cusik as a lesbian instead of a transwoman. Thanks for the help in clearing that up.

I was there. Her comments are not correct. She was not quite from my table in the back quarter of the room she was seen walking fast and shouting while throwing papers at seated diners. I could not see what happened when she got to the very front but her actions were threating, loud and obnoxious. no wonder she was stopped by security who knew what this oddball was up to. She refused to leave, she was never thrown to the ground and even as she was escorted back she even said ok good i know where to go from here. Sure she has bruises and just like my papa too old people bruise a lot and easily.
think all sides and go talk to my friends that were attendees, not hrc staffers about what they saw happen before you judge & blog innaccuracies
we have a fight to win here in cal to defeat prop8. lets focus people

During an HRC event, where 750 law abiding citizen bought tickets to hear among others, two transgendered speakers, a member of congress, the President of HRC, and during which an HRC supporter announced a $1 million gift to fight proposition 8 in California (yes, HRC has many battles to fight, not just ENDA), an individual, who admits that "Another part of the protest was for 2 people to buy tickets and peacefully leaflet the crowd" is surprised when she is forcefully removed from the room when she began (per her admission) another part of the "protest" during Joe Solmonese's speech? Gimme a break!

Here is an idea...instead of spending the time protesting and blogging against HRC, why doesn't the trans community do something effective with all of that energy...hire your own lobbyist to work WITH HRC on the hill. Or is it just easier to complain and protest, without having to do the hard work?

Rod i like your comment. i guess it is easier to be seen as a bunch of whiners that needed to get a 63 year old in there to scream and shout and then to complain and lie about it afterwards without any evidence of what when on in the room to back up her claims. i am sorry she had bruises but that could have come from anything, maybe she needs a lifealert to help her with all the times she falls over "help me i've fallen and cant get up"
but you are right maybe they should consider spendin their times more wisely and any how all i see are the same people blogging all the times; must be a depressing group of people

defeat prop8

Thomas Johnson | July 28, 2008 5:53 PM

I have nothing against protesting. My uderstanding was that a separate event had been planned across the street. My only point is that it is not wise to threaten someones life and then expect to have access to walk to the front of the room when Joe Solmonese is speaking. The fact is Ms. Cusic knew she was breaking rank by trying to disrupt Joe's speach. Buying a ticket does not give you the right to demand attention at an event.
As for the headline of this post...sensationalism at best. It is very clear that Bilerico has turned into an HRC hating crowd. Go back to a year ago when Candice Gingrich and Joe Solmonese made contributions to this blog. They were immediatley attacked in the comments and stopped writing. SAD. Do you really wonder why you did not get credentials to the DNC?

I didn't apply for credentials for the DNC. I was there in 2004 as one of only 7 trans people, and the first trans person ELECTED as a delegate in the South and in Georgia. Been there. Done that. I am happy others will be there this year.

And, I was NOT a reader on Bilerico when Joe and Candice posted here.

Joe is a liar and TAVA is one of the few organizations who have no ties with them. I'll repeat. Joe is a liar. You cannot make a silk purse out of a pig's ear, and anyone who do not believe the YouTube piece of Joe lying are wearing rose-colored glasses.

"Dude. Don't bogart that joint. I need another hit."

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 28, 2008 7:22 PM

If anyone had questions about the bankruptcy of the HRC they need look no further than this incident, where hired thugs roughed up a protester while 'liberals' closed their eyes and turned a deaf ear.

Howard Wallace, a key founder and leader of Pride At Work, AFL-CIO with a long history in the GLBT movement was on the picket line outside holding the banner of the SF Central Labor Council. He was instrumental in getting the CLC to formally endorse a picket line against HRC for their role in ENDA and excluding trans people from it's protections. The CLCs decison was key in making the boycott against HRC as sucessful as it was. Many political figures, amoung them LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa deemed it the better part of valor not to cross a union picket line.

I think that in spite of the comments by overstuffed 'liberal' supporters of the HRC we owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine Cusic. She did us all a favor by lodging her protest against HRC. I heard the same kind of people make the same kind of comments about sit-in's in the sixties, and feminists and gays and lesbians in the seventies. The goons who roughed her up acted like typical management toadies and their methods bring even more shame down on HRC.

Thank you, Catherine, and Hasta LA Victoria Seimpre - the final victory is one step closer becuuse of your dedication and bravery.

Settle down, people.

We'll get to the bottom of this. HRC has put out a statement now disputing Cusic's version of events. I've posted it above the fold so it can be seen with my original part of the post.

I'm also working on getting statements from other folks who were at the dinner. To that end, if Frank is willing to go on the record, I'd love to talk with him.

There were plenty of witnesses, and the truth will eventually out.

Frank wrote:

i am sorry she had bruises but that could have come from anything, maybe she needs a lifealert to help her with all the times she falls over "help me i've fallen and cant get up"

The TOS forbids me from saying that I've never seen a more disgusting statement in my time here at Bilerico. So I won't.

Many women and child abuse victims who have been assaulted have had their attackers claim that "she walked into a door" or "she fell down stairs". This statement reeks of that attitude.

Those bruises are fingermarks. Frank's statement on this issue calls into question his reliability as a witness in everything else he said.

But as I said, there were plenty of witnesses who were there, and they won't all have axes to grind. The truth - which may be exactly as Franks says it is - will out.

Prop8 will be fought against, regardless, by GLB and also T. Such a serious issue should not be used as a mere tool to muddy the waters.

I just want to make sure that how she was identified is HOW she identifies herself.

I identify myself, in terms of residence, as a New Yorker, at least for another two weeks.

I identify myself culturally and ethnically as Irish and in Ireland as Culchie(whch carries a meaning to Irish.)

I was not making the point to be oppositional, and if it comes across so, I truly do apologise.

But, I really think that we could achieve some harmony and cohesion amongst ourselves if we were to agree to respect and recognise how a person identifies themselves. That simply move could bring some sense of peace.

I want us to win.
Not just survive and endure, I want us to win.

I want us to have justice done.
I no longer want equality alone, I want justice, for all of us, howsoever we identify ourselves.
And I want to see within us enough pride in our community as a whole to cease sweeping portions of it under the rug, but to embrace all of the individuals and their conceptaualisations of self that make up this incredible family

We need to understand each other's viewpoint more too.

Frank comes across like a paid HRC shill. Is he? I doubt it, the way that I doubt the sun will suddenly start rising in the west.

Look, if a similar story had been told about someone taking similar protest action in a "Focus on the Family" dinner, I'm certain that Frank would be there supporting the protestor. I'm also certain that he'll resent the comparison of HRC with FotF. T's wouldn't though.

I think it unlikely that he can see that he's sounding like every stereotype of the Rich Gay Male every RadLezFem has ground her teeth over.

Meanwhile those of opposing views, like me, should understand that he sees the great good for GLB causes that the HRC has accomplished, and that he cannot understand why anyone should be white-anting them. The Prop8 fight is important, darnit, and to see factional fighting when such a vital battle is going on must be infuriating for him. I admire his forbearance and moderate tone.

I hope that he might be able to one day see that it's not just Joe S's speech, nor a one-off regrettable but pragmatic decision over ENDA that's caused this. It's over a decade of T's being cast out by the HRC, then when T's for the nth time gave the HRC "one more chance", they were kicked in the teeth again. The HRC are habitual offenders, and have had their three strikes, and some. It was HRC's past president, Elizabeth Birch, who at a Chicago GLBT event stated that to make transinclusion in ENDA a top legislative priority would happen ‘over her dead body’.


They just lie about it now, and claim to be GLBT not GLB-only. That's the worst bit, the fact that they undermine other organisations that actually do help by saying "no need, we're taking care of that" and doing... nothing.

Perhaps Frank can see how we might be predisposed to believe the worst. Because the worst has happened before, again and again. The HRC security must be prepared to deal with violent, radical Fundies, possibly armed. They see T's as the enemy too now, and treat them similarly. With a heavy hand, one that leaves marks.

But... we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Protest against the HRC's perfidy, and still give our all to fighting Prop8. Frank need have no fear, we'll support even exclusionary and transphobic gays (and I don't imply he's either BTW). We will do this, not to gain a quid pro quo (as if...), but because in a fight for Human Rights, you have to do what's right, not what's pragmatic, to win in the long run.

Midtowner | July 28, 2008 9:02 PM a post several back...she planned this!!! She knew what would happen and planned it to get a reaction like this...Come on people..its staged its part of her protest...

Big HRC bashes little ole lady...your all better than this gheesh.....

I suppose that the next time, HRC could even kill someone and you would find excuses of supporting and defending them. Where is the line they have to cross before you understand what we are all trying to get across to you and others? Also, when are you and others going to stop blaming the victim? Regardless of how stupid someone acts, responding with violence is not appropriate. Ever. She didn't physically hurt anyone or threatened anyone with violence, but she got physically hurt. Is that appropriate?

Remember, the murderer of Lawrence King and his lawyer are blaming the victim. Anyone who says that disruption of an event can be answered by **physical** violence is in the same category as the murder of Lawrence King, those who killed Matthew Shepard and those who killed Gwen Araujo. They all tried to blame the victim as well.

Christine may have crossed the line on how she acted (which is still unclear,) but she didn't deserve the way she was manhandled and bruised. HRC crossed the line. But, as far as I'm concerned, HRC crossed the line 15 years ago and has never tried to come back across.

Thats too far Monica..equating the horrible murder of Lawrence King and this stupid act by this women who knew what type of response she would get. She's no victim, she an opportunist and getting exactly what she wanted. Shame on you!!!!!!

I'm in Shock, but not surprised. The great Human Rights Organization [HRC] had to use force to eject one woman for expressing her rights. Is that not Ironic? Wow the next thing is for the Capofamiglia Joe Solmonese to send a Hit man to my house for speaking out. HRC is sounding more like an organized crime syndicate with each passing day. Where is the federal prosecutor at to explain the Rico act to Joe and his thugs? Where is the HRC board of directors and the membership? Can they not see what Joe is doing. Vote him out today. I can tell you now TransCarolina will never support HRC again As long a Joe is there. Just my 2 cents.

Janice Covington Allison . Chair of TransCarolina.

UdontKnowme | July 29, 2008 12:50 AM

Maura, no worries, I didn't assume the worst on your question..... Overall, regardless of the events, I would like to think an LGBT elder would be treated a bit more delicately, respectfully unless she was a CLEAR danger to herself or someone else.

Not having been there or heard from witnesses present I am seeing how the story pans out


Rosa Parks planned her action in advance -- knowing the risks she took. Would you condemn her to any suffering that she could have endured because she was an "opportunist"? In my state on the eve of the Iraq war, protesters engaged in civil disobedience, and knowing it was a possibility, one woman was detained, separated from the rest, frivolously strip searched, and sexually assaulted. Would you condemn her for "getting exactly what she wanted"?

Now there are plenty of ways to get someone to leave without leaving marks on them. You can condemn Catherine for the rudeness in which she enacted her protest, but I see that as par for the course -- protesters who quietly wait their turn to talk don't get to talk. Or you can see the unusual aspect of this story as how quick to violence the HRC security is, even when dealing with members of our own community.

And Thomas,

If they really thought she was a physical threat, why didn't they search her for weapons? Why didn't they detain her until cops arrived? Why did they increase their use of force when she attempted to hand out a flyer (at least according to Catherine's version)?

I'm not buying it. But even if I did, I somehow don't think it would be a better PR move to announce that the HRC is concerned about assassination attempts from members of the very community they claim to advocate for. So much so that people who get up during their events get tackled and roughly thrown out.

Sorry, Bil, dear, but the title of this post already reeks with bias.

I would wait at least for the facts to come out before moving on to crucify HRC over some allegations.

It's obvious something happened. Certainly, in past protests, there is a track record of HRC actively suppressing attempts to hand out brochures or leaflets. Pictures don't lie. What she did to deserve them, if anything, is conjecture. But it seems like brutality that could have been avoided.

HRC is supposed to be this fantastic PR machine, but the way they've handled these protests is sheer stupidity wrapped in complete ignorance, frosted in white thug topping. From the way they dealt with Phyllis Frye in Houston, to Monica Helms' being threatened with arrest for passing out brochures in Atlanta, to whatever happened in SF (I expect the truth will be closer to thuggery than not), through Solmonese' lie at SCC, to the appearance of the Four Horsemen in Houston, HRC continues to cause itself PR nightmares - not the T community. Hell of a win-back campaign, Joe!

Wouldn't HRC be smarter, and better off, if they simply allowed 2 T leaders from the protest, who contacted them in advance and agreed to comport and dress professionally and appropriately for the occasion, to have an information table in the lobby of the venue? Or even allowed someone to hand out brochures quietly during the event? Of course they would. But, because of HRC's foolish and stupid behavior, it is now war. I don't think either side wanted that.

By the way, those of you who gripe about the anti-HRC time, you might like to know that most T's I know here are involved in GLBT organizations or political campaigns - just not HRC. It is also possible to be an activist and belong to no organization at all, you know, but to volunteer as you see fit.

Thomas~ What in the world are you talking about? The worst comment that Candace ever got on Bilerico was:

Does HRC know you are using the word Queer??

That's hardly anything.

Joe did get some negativity, but he was a pretty controversial contributor. Check out the comments that other controversial contributors get, like Marti Abernathey, Yasmin Nair, or Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Unless you're going to say that they're all HRC fans as well....

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 29, 2008 6:21 AM

Firstly, at age 55 thank you, I object to someone being called "Elderly" at age 63. Frank old boy, I can bench press more than you, and unless Catherine is taking a blood thinner, these bruises are consistent with "senior abuse."

That having been said more details about this are needed and Bil is quite right to seek them before we unmake friendships and allies.

Anyone care to arm wrestle? :)

There is NO EXCUSE to answer verbal disruption with physical violence. NO EXCUSE. Tobi had some good examples of this. It amazes me how someone who lives in the heart of the city that is capital of the Civil Rights Movement and condone violence against anyone because of a verbal protest. History is all around us, yet some refuse to see it.

If anyone ever visits Atlanta, I would like to show you around, especially the King Center. The first time I stepped into the Ebenezer Baptist Church I was at awe. They were playing one of Dr. King's speeches over the sound system and the feeling of history just flowed through me. It was an experience I will never forget. I hope others could get the chance I had.

I should chime in on this post too, I guess.

There's some investigation going on as to what really happened here and there'll be a few more posts on that. I'm a bit surprised by people's initial reactions, either to condemn HRC as a whole without knowing much of what went on or the knee-jerk defenses of what went on without knowing much of what happened, as if Ms. Cusic's words and experiences are inherently suspect because she allegedly disturbed a gala.

I'd hope that people (like Midtowner) would take her words and actions seriously as she has been fighting for our rights for years. She's doing important work for the community, and anyone on here who says the same thing about HRC should also be willing to cut her a break too.

That said, I think Lucrece is right that the title of this post is a little over the top for what we know so far. And I think, Monica, that comparing this event to Larry King's murder is a little too much as well.

All in all, I'm just finishing reading a bunch of stories of people being TASERed by police when they didn't need to be. I think Americans have come to accept a certain amount of authoritarianism and violence and to see any disruption of a party as evil, whether it be Ms. Cusic here or any internal criticism of the LGBT rights movement.

Midtowner | July 29, 2008 8:13 AM

First of all there was no physical violence....
She was physically removed because she was causing a disruption and would not leave on her own. Again this was staged, she did it on purpose hoping for this so she can get you all worked up...and it gullible...

I find it very interesting how you are blowing this particular incident up to the same status as historical events in the Civil Rights movement. This is a case of infighting...not the Transgendered's versus the government.

I cannot believe how blinded many are in their rage against HRC to see the truth...its is sad very sad. This is not the watershed event you are so desperatley hoping for in your rage against HRC.

Bait, bait and more bait. Who would have guessed that this topic would bring out more anger, eh Bil?

Where's Joe Solmonese's speech?

Coming from someone who has been a "hired thug" to several HRC events. I am shocked by the reaction to the majority of the readers willingness to crucify HRC for escorting this woman out of an event for being disruptive.

I don't care whether or not you like the HRC, that isn't what this was about. If you forked over the cash to be at this event, and one person was ruining it for the rest, you would appreciate the hired security, whom asked her to leave, to escort her from the event. You can tell from her statement, she is not telling the truth. It's rife with inaccuracies from the way security guards are allowed to operate.

If the hired thugs were in the wrong, she could have pressed charges, yet none have been filed. She was asked to leave a private event, after being found to be disruptive, and refused to do so. So she was escorted by force out of the event.

Compare it to someone talking on their cell phone at a movie, I can guarantee 90% of you would say something to that person or go and get security. And be happy about them being escorted out for disrupting your evening entertainment.

"Big HRC bashes little ole lady...your all better than this gheesh....."

If she did set this up for precisely this purpose, we have a problem.

The problem would be that we are now copying the tactics of Michael Marcavag while simultaneously condemning them....

Even Alex doesn't get it. I was talking about "blaming the victim." Let me repeat that so people understand. "Blaming the victim." It happens in murders and other forms of violence. Examples of "blaming the victim" is NOT over the top. Why is it ok to blame the victim if she is not killed, but not if the person was? Blaming the victim is blaming the victim is blaming the victim. What the final result is not a factor in my comparison. Too bad people are having a hard time understanding this.

Ok even though this involves revisiting a place in life I left behind many years ago, I gotta say this:

When I was younger, waaaay pre-transition, I worked some security of some punk shows in NYC. Mostly it was pretty light work, I got into the shows for free, plus sometimes I'd even be able to float around backstage and maybe hang out with the band.

Every now and then, of course, we'd have a problem that had to be dealt with. Could be a drunk, could be a guy getting a little too handsy with the ladies, could be someone stupid enough to do their coke or heroin in the crowd instead of going off to the bathroom (not allowed...the cops would overlook pot and didn't harass those who used the bathroom to shoot up, but if they saw you shooting up in public, it was Handcuff City).

The point here is that I often had to participate in physically removing people from a large crowded space, often people who didn't want to go and fought back. Not once in all those times did I or anyone I worked with have to injure someone as badly as we see in these pictures in order to remove them from a club, and these weren't elderly people these were people in their late teens and early twenties, often blasted on something.

What I take from these pictures is that Catherine Cusic's removal was clearly unnecessarily brutal. These security people obviously manhandled her, probably intentionally. In any case, the amount of force used was clearly in excess of that needed to remove a 63-year-old woman from the building.

To me, that, and the fact that apparently no one in attendance at this dinner rose to help her as this was happening, speak volumes.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 29, 2008 9:53 AM

The ENDA betrayal is going to haunt HRC until its last day. Barney Frank didn’t gut ENDA simply because he’s prejudiced against trans people. He did it because most Democrats and Republicans wouldn’t vote for it for fear of losing the financial backing of bigoted business owners and managers.

Many business types utilize bigotry, racism, misogyny and the status of immigrants to underpay because it does wonders for their profit margins. It’s the Chamber of Commerce way and it's contemptible. These are the same people who overwhelmingly voted for DOMA and DADT so you can be sure they wouldn’t like the real ENDA crafted by the NLGTF and many others as an inclusive bill that would vastly expand the rights of all employees, not just us.

HRC has only one real base and that’s rich GLBT folks and only one real goal - to influence movement politics by funding or withholding their money. Most of their base is in businesses of one kind or another and It makes sense that HRC would join the Democrats and Republicans in gutting ENDA.

If HRC continues raising money it won’t die out quickly, but it’s hard to see how they can stay in business when an ever-growing segment of the movement despises them, pickets them, boycotts them and disrupts their events. It's a pretty serious kick in the ass for HRC when the mayor of LA pulled out of their program at the last minute because our allies on the SF Central Labor Council not only boycotted the event but threw up a picket line. Pride at Work AFL-CIO gets the credit for that excellent move.

The level of anger went up several degrees when Catherine Cusic was manhandled by three hired goons. Their tactics wouldn’t be out of place during a police riot but apparently they’re perfectly acceptable to rich supporters of HRC, not one of them had the guts to come to her defense. For those HRC types who object to having your fundraising events disrupted by unruly militant types I have this advice: get used to it. HRC seems intent on digging its own grave.

No Bill only your Anger and people who despise HRC anger went up. The rest of it see it for what it actaully was, a grandstander looking for attention..she stated it was the second part of the protest...

HRC isnt going away, its doing quite well so sorry that your so bitter and angry you cant see that were in a great time and lots of things are being acomplished. Sure there are set backs and missteps but as long as we take an honest look at them and make positive changes (which they have) then we are going in the right direction.

And as far as the "HRC has only one real base and that’s rich GLBT folks" comment not true...tons of middle class and others are huge supports of HRC. Stop being a classist and blaming all of your ills on others...

Catherine Cusic | July 29, 2008 1:09 PM

Follow up to Bilerico article:

I read several of your comments and appreciate greatly the support given (especially by questioning the person who thought I had been bruised in the previous 24 hours by some other agency-like I tripped getting out of my Jaguar).

I don’t mind that some are questioning although I do feel that since we are all in the same community there could be a different approach to questions. I think when someone reports
An incident like this it would be helpful if skepticism were tempered with some compassion.

Everyone has a tendency to believe what they want to believe which is why eye witness accounts are notoriously poor and which is why we sometimes have ridiculous arguments with family/lovers.

So let’s try to give each other benefit of doubt and try to hear what is saying before brining out the knives……

HRC disputes my account of the evening (which could possibly have some inaccuracies, I haven’t been physically attacked like that in some 15 years).

Some people who were there also dispute my account. Fair enough-the room was very dark to allow for the screen and speakers, there were 700 or more people in a large room and when I was approached by “security” we had our backs to the back 2/3 or so of the room.

So how about we start with some facts:

1. HRC supports a policy of “incremental change” to pass legislation to make discrimination in jobs, housing, parenting (I assume) etc against people based on their “sexual orientation.” They do not support, at this time, broadening that protection to other members of the LGBT+ community because they think that the US is not “ready for that” and the entire legislation will fail and no one in our community will have federal protection from discrimination.

That is certainly a genuine strategic concern-not an ethical concern perhaps, but a strategic one.

Many of us disagree with this approach and want to proceed as a community, with no one left behind. If this process takes longer, so be it! The fear is, of course, that once L & G got heirs, the less politically and economically powerful would be left behind. Much like what happened with early AIDS issues-Gay men had a powerful lobby, IVDA did not and the services went to Gay men and not to IVDA (who, I general, had distinct ethnic and class differences).

There has been no “catch up” to this day.

2. HRC organized an incredibly expensive fundraiser in a city that has a queer community with a very strong commitment to equality for all members of our community.

3. There was a protest organized by those of us who disagree with HRC’s stance on ENDA strategy (and possibly goals).

4. As one of those protestors, I purchased a ticket to the event with a goal of sharing information via a leaflet. More of us would have gone except the tickets were too expensive. Something which is totally within my rights so long as I do not “disrupt” the proceedings whereupon it is clear that I would be asked to leave. This is regardless of so called threats to anyone’s life.

In this country, it used to be that the constitution outweighed alleged or real “security issues.” Since the Bush administration this has changed so maybe my critics are correct, Like the librarian who held a sign at a Bush event and was asked to leave, she should have known better in the new era of “national security” which apparently is now extended to staff members of organizations as well as Republican Presidents.

5. To try to recount what happened when I got up with the intent of quietly leafleting without giving my own experience of the event (Frank has his and I have mine).

I did get up and proceed to the front of the room, since I expected to be asked to stop and would rather be able to reach as many people as possible. I was “approached” by 2-3
men (not certain how many, they were initially behind me ). Shortly thereafter my leaflets were on the ground and these men had me in an arm lock and wrist lock (this was shown on TV Frank). At some point I yelled-when or what may be in dispute. Eventually these men removed me from the room. Did they call the police force? NO. Did they search me for weapons? NO. Did they even look in the bag I was carrying? NO.
That makes it a bit difficult to believe that anyone in HRC or the Security Company considered me a threat to anyone’s physical health.

6. After being ejected out the side door of the hotel, I re-entered the front door, went to the front desk and asked to file an “incident report.” I was told by hotel security that they had no such reports. Now I have worked in hospitals, non-profits and for a major union. Every workplace has “incident” or accident reports. When I was told I could not fill out any report, I then displayed what were then already visible bruises to the manager and security. These are facts-the bruises were witnessed by the manager.

I went home an hour or so later and my roommate took pictures of those same bruises which were beginning to turn black and blue. The next day my physician took the pictures you saw.
And Frank, I am 63 not 73. I can tell you as a practicing Physician Assistant in trauma, 63 year olds without blood dyscracias do not bruise that badly on those parts of the body. In any case it is a fact that some 15 minutes after ejection I had early bruising and 2 hours later severe bruising.

6. The next day I saw my physician who examined me and took the pictures you see.

So where are we? I legally entered an event that was open to the paying public. I had leaflets, I was physically removed and I was yelling. These are facts we can probably agree on? What we may not agree upon is the order of these events.

I was badly bruised within 2 hours (documented) and after speaking to my Dr. make an appointment to see him in his office the next day whereupon he documented my injuries (more photos). You don’t have to take my word for these; I will make those medical records open to you.

Another fact, I was video taped and televised on local TV being physically removed with my right arm in a position known by law enforcement officials to be one to cause excruciating pain. Photos taken soon after confirm significant injury, as did the examination of my physician.

What is in dispute is the sequence of events, my exact actions and the exact actions of security.
What is not in doubt is that security did not treat me as a physical threat. They did not search my bag, or me they did not call the police, they did not even ask for ID. So much for the fear that Joe Solmonese would be added to martyrs Jack, Martin and Bobby.

By the way Thomas Johnson-I do not know anything about anybody phoning threats against Joe
(seems a bit grandiose to me). But I would like to point out that you and I belong to the same community-or do we? Is that why there should be different laws for different QUEERS?

So now we come to differences in opinion and maybe social values. The TV tapes and my injuries do indicate excessive force to many of us. You on the other hand may feel that this amount of force is justified for someone who may be attempting to leaflet-or to stretch your point of view, to someone who suddenly began yelling.

Others would say that in the case of a bona fide disruption, the appropriate job of security is to
remove the “disruptive person” in a professional manner respecting the safety of that person and the crowd. For example, many years ago I was in at that very hotel demonstrating against the policies of GW Bush in Central America. The SFPD were called and they removed us from the hotel without incident or injury.

Finally Rod, Frank and Thomas: I have to say that you display an incredible lack of respect for older people and for differences of opinion; and you are additional ignorance of the history of social change in this country is appalling. I have to say that much of what you 3 enjoy today is due to the queens, “trannies” (a dated term), New Yorican’s and Dominicanos who fought at Stonewall. Not to mention the AIDS activists (like myself) who stole hidden medical reports from public health in 1982-83 and released them. Who fought for “safe sex” education and you criticized the CDC for their lack of responsiveness. I worked at San Francisco General Hospital then and had to put up with kiss asses screaming at me in the halls for daring to criticize DPH while men died all around me. Staff hid in the linen closets and cried and then went to meetings to fight some more.

There is a place for lobbying and a place for activism, hopefully in synch with each other, but my brothers, I find that the activists are often way ahead of the lobbyists and damn lucky for you.

But I do have to thank you for making me laugh with your comment, “Do you really wonder why you did not get credentials to the DNC?” Yes, that has always been my greatest hope in life-to be credentialed by the DNC.

So we can look at the tapes (if they still exist) and they may or may not shed light on what exactly happened. I don’t think interviewing people who were there will be particularly useful. I tried to get witness afterward and they “didn’t want to be involved.” Besides your pool is already tainted by the fact that they were attending the event.

But my point remains-EVEN IF I were there to disrupt the proceedings (which I dispute unless leafleting quietly is “disruption”, our laws say that that force cannot exceed the demands of the situation and that short of crying “fire “ in a crowded theater, we retain the right of freedom of expression. Now Bush/Cheney and you may not either. a. If so I will come to the next HRC event and be prepared to be waterboarded…

Catherine Cusic


It's not about comparing this incident to the civil rights movement as if this is the beginning of a big thing, I'm trying to dispel the myth that "good" protests aren't planned and the only "good" victims did everything they could to avoid abuse.

You want some lower key examples, here: In my hometown a woman who had lost her son in Iraq bought a ticket to a Republican fundraiser that Cheney was visiting. She planned to attempt to confront him, but was physically ejected. I don't remember exactly but I think it was for wearing a peace t-shirt or something. If she had bruises like this would it still be all her fault because she "planned" it?

Or what about non-violent peace protesters who receive serious injuries or even die from "less-then-lethal" weaponry? Part of the philosophy of non-violent resistance is that when you put yourself in harms way, while not posing any threat yourself, you can create a space to document the violence of those you are confronting.

You know what, I don't even care about this instance anymore. But please tell me that if a 63 year old woman planned a disruption of a republican/focus on the family/etc event and received these same injuries, you would be upset right? Because if you think that all activists (not just those protesting groups you believe in) are to blame for whatever violence is directed at them, then I'll be a lot more worried.

H. Wilson | July 29, 2008 1:55 PM

"And as far as the "HRC has only one real base and that’s rich GLBT folks" comment not true...tons of middle class and others are huge supports of HRC. Stop being a classist and blaming all of your ills on others..."

Midtowner, please let me know how you know this. HRC cooks their membership books so that know one has a clue how many real members they have.

If I was HRC, I wouldn't worry about the protests, as long as the money was rolling in. However, HRC, in their ENDA reasoning, said that the reason they did what they did was because they had to keep relationships with elected officials.

Now that the NYC congressional delegation stayed away from the HRC dinner, and they couldn't get an elected official other than Woolsey to attend their SF dinner, I wonder if their shitting bricks.

If they really care about what elected officials think, and those elected officials are choosing not to attend their events- where is their power base now?

Midtowner | July 29, 2008 2:24 PM

Tobi, I think what Im trying to convey is that there was no physical violence and she is not a victim. Yes she was forcibly ejected for causing a disturbance, which she or anyone should have been. If during the course of her struggling she became injured (not really sure the picture look old) then isnt that her fault. Now before anyone again thnks I'm blaming the victim. She isnt a vitim she was a disturbance, however if after she was taken out and purposeful bodily harm was caused and or she was beaten etc..then its a totally different story and I agree with you.

But this was not the case, the hired thugs or goons did what they were supposed to... It was handled humanely and as far as people not trying to stop it...stop what. If someone is heckling a performer or speaker and Ive paid alot of money to see then remove them ASAP....

Midtowner | July 29, 2008 3:01 PM

Also for all those saying didnt she have a right to this, etc...

How would you have felt if it were one of Fred Phelps clan at a Transgendered rally or march that you paid to get into??? Would you allow them to disrupt the proceedings? Would allow them to approach the stage? Even if it were really old Fred himself...I mean he's got to be harmless he's really old??? And what if he just wanted to politely hand out leaflets during a speech...would that be ok????

We need to think about things in a rational, smart...less emotional way.

Thomas Johnson | July 29, 2008 6:03 PM


Thank you for all of your activism in the past. You do not know how old I am or if I have a lack of respect for my elders. I actually respect my elders AND differences of opinion. I also know that there is a time and a place for everything. The protest was outside and there was dedicated space for that.

I have a feeling you knew what you were getting into when you bought your ticket and then walked toward the stage as Joe Solmonese was speaking.

What I will say is that I look forward to seeing the tapes and hope that you are justified. But come on, you just admitted that in the past you have stolen private medical records.

By the account of saying quietly, "I bought a ticket, I have a right to quietly leaflet the crowd" is entirely WRONG. The first think you started yelling was, "Liar, Liar, he's a liar...."
The next thing that happened was your stack of roughly 50 8 1/2 b 11 leaflets hit my head and landed in my lap.

I look forward to seeing the tape. I can't imagine that the other 700 people in the room are all wrong too....

I am very glad that I read this story and the numerous posts that have followed; it has helped me to see what is really important.

Why on earth is the Human Rights Campaign hiring thugs in the first place? This seems to be in direct conflict with their mission. Have I missed something? What’s next? HRC torture techniques mixers? Who in their right mind could justify twisting the arm of any 63 year old woman with such might to cause this amount of bruising? That is barbaric and inhumane treatment under any circumstances.

We should be apologizing to Christine for having endured this abuse that was inflicted by OUR community and thanking her for her bravery and commitment in speaking up for the rights of other LGB – T - Americans.

Yet again we see how the HRC is not out for the regular LBTQ community. I stopped giving after learning how many people on their payroll are making huge sums of cash, while still having private practices to rake it in even more.

HRC is nothing more than elitists who do nothing for the average hard working gay stiff such as myself.

David-Sarah Hopwood | September 5, 2008 10:14 PM

The opinions of HRC shills^Wsupporters here are doing absolutely nothing to improve my view of the HRC :-(

Thankyou, Catherine Cusic, for being "loud and obnoxious". It sounds like we need a lot more of that.