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Night of Noise Overpowers Prejudice
by Alena Scarver
2007-05-01

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The 11th Annual Day of Silence/Night of Noise Rally was celebrated outside of the James R. Thompson Center at the corner of Randolph Street and Clark Street to commemorate all the people who have suffered violent persecution because of their sexual orientation.

The Night of Noise began with a countdown ending the Day of Silence. All the participants screamed at the top of their lungs.

Shannon Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, stood on the stage welcoming all the participants to the Night of Noise Rally.

'I'm here to support my friend. I have never been to a rally like this,' said Evelyn Torres, 17, a student at Roosevelt High School.

Sponsored by the Illinois Safe School Alliance—formed by the recent merge of the Coalition for Education on Sexual Orientation ( CESO ) and Creating Safe Schools for Illinois—hundreds of youths gathered from various high schools around the city, such as Steinmetz, Jones College Preparatory, Von Steuben and Roosevelt.

'I'm here to meet other people and we should let people be who they are,' Torres said.

The event was not celebrated and appreciated by all. Anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera held a sign reading 'Nobody Has to Be Gay.' Pastor Rick Barnard of My Father's House of Prayer, a non-demononational church located in Morris, Ill., was the other protester at the rally.

'God loves us all, but He doesn't love everything we do,' said Barnard.

The protesters' message did not go over well with the youths. Dozens of youth gathered around the protesters, asking how they could possibly know the true message of God's love if they are preaching against who they are.

Despite the attempt to crash the rally, the youth continued to enjoy the demonstration. There were dozens of performances like spoken word poetry, drag performances and improvisational acting.

'I grew up in a small town. I had to be silent. I hope to gain a better sense of community. The youth are a small population, but it's up to us,' said Zak Rittenhouse, a youth participant in the rally.

Also, several area schools participated in the Day of Silence, an annual event held to commemorate and protest anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools.


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