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Looking back in history: Pink Angels take it to the Streets:
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times

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The following is from the book Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, edited and co-written by Tracy Baim, published in 2008 by Surrey Books.

Chicago's activist tradition helped build the gay movement in the 1970s and 1980s, including the women's Take Back the Night anti-violence marches. At the end of the 1980s, gays started to march against hate crimes because of an increase in attacks from simple assaults to murders, locally and nationally. Transgender people were especially vulnerable.

Annual anti-violence marches were organized and sponsored by individuals and groups, including Chicago Anti-Bashing Network; It's Time, Illinois ( now Illinois Gender Advocates ) ; Horizons Community Services ( now Center on Halsted ) ; and many other groups.

Key anti-violence leaders were Paul Adams ( who died of AIDS in 2000 ) , Andy Thayer, and Lisa Tonna, who died in 2008 of cancer. The fight against violence had many targets, not just anti-gay attacks, but also domestic violence and police harassment. The rallies would increase in size when highly visible crimes were documented, including the shootings of Ron Cayot, who was shot while leaving a gay bar on Halsted; Adrian "Pebbles" Perez, who was shot in 1999 by intruders who left her friend Buretta Williams dead and Perez severely injured in a South Side apartment; or the killing of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.

NOTE Also please see related story, VIEWS Violence and outrage, déjà vu all over again, July 7, 2011

by Tracy Baim at

In the 2000s, the murders continued, including the slaying of Chicagoan Kevin Clewer, a 2004 mystery that remains unsolved, and of young gay and trans youth across the country.

One group that caused a particular spark was the Pink Angels Anti-Violence Project. Started in 1991 by Alyn Toler ( like Adams, Toler was a former winner of Gay Chicago Magazine's Mr. Windy City contest ) , the Pink Angels were modeled on the Guardian Angels, which assisted Toler's group. While it lasted only a few years ( Toler died of AIDS complications ) , Pink Angels took control of the streets and gave confidence to a generation of activists, training them in self-defense and encouraging them to report hate crimes.


Alyn Toler with Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels. Outlines newspaper archives.

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