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Editor's note: Gay rights supporters have called an emergency rally at 5 p.m. at the San Diego jail at 1173 Front St. to protest the jailing of nine SAME members who were part of a sit-in at the County Clerk's Office today. Organizers said they will be demanding the immediate release of the protesters from jail. "Help us defend those who chose the sit-in for equality and ... let San Diego know that there are many more people here who support full equality and immediate equal marriage rights," the organizers posted on Facebook. "Let's be LOUD and PROUD and get our activists out of lock-up."
SAN DIEGO – At a time when the County of San Diego is plagued with fiscal challenges, more than 50 sheriff's deputies, many dressed in full riot gear, were deployed to the County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Office downtown today, to disperse nine peaceful protesters.
The controversy began promptly at 8 a.m. on the second floor, where marriage licenses are issued.
Tony and Tyler Dylan-Hyde, the local couple who had scored the first appointment to get a marriage license this morning before the appeals court issued a stay that halts gay weddings until at least December, arrived dressed in suits and ties to honor their 8 a.m. appointment.
At that time, about 10 deputies were on duty, dressed in their regular uniforms, asking the roughly 30 people gathered by the door to keep the hallway clear.
Flanked by media cameras, the Dylan-Hydes were kindly stopped before they could enter the office. A spokeswomen for the county informed them that unfortunately, due to the law changes, their appointment has been canceled.
Tyler, who is an attorney, informed the spokeswoman that they did not agree with the Ninth District Court of Appeal’s decision to stay gay marriages, and that they both felt Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling, as well as the statements issued by California’s Governor and Attorney General, should be enough for county officials to issue marriage licenses.
The spokeswoman said she understood their opinion but that as long as the stay was in place, there was nothing she could do and that she has to follow the law.
At that point, Tyler said that the county had an oath to follow California law, and that the Ninth District Court of Appeals had not set aside Judge Walker’s ruling that declared California's Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. Additionally, Tyler said the stay did not prevent or prohibit the office from issuing marriage licenses.
Several times they requested to obtain a marriage license, but she budged from the doorway only to momentarily step inside and return with a printed version of the Ninth District Court of Appeal’s ruling on the stay.
There was a brief exchange about whether or not the stay actually prohibited the issuance of licenses, but in the end, the Dylan-Hydes, who have been together for 15 years, were unsuccessful in persuading her. So they asked to speak directly with David Butler, the County Clerk.
While they waited, they addressed the crowd and said they were there for all couples who could not be there.
“When you look at the stay, it’s really about the federal state telling the State of California to act,” Tyler said. “It’s a matter of California law, and the County, like all officials, has taken an oath to abide by the state’s constitution.”
Within a few minutes, Butler stepped into the hallway and caused momentary media frenzy as he escorted the Dylan-Hydes to the second-floor foyer to avoid blocking the entrance.
At this point, several members of San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality (SAME) and other marriage-equality supporters began chanting “Do the right thing” and various other comments as Butler explained to the Dylan-Hydes that, unfortunately, issuing them a marriage license was not something he could allow.
“We believe that county officials and the Attorney General have the authority and obligation to allow marriage licenses to proceed based on both the federal court's findings that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional - and the Governor's and Attorney General's filings in the Prop. 8 cases,” Tyler explained to Butler.
Again, Tyler made the same remarks about the county’s obligation to uphold the state’s constitution, and that there was nothing prohibiting the county from doing so.
Butler stood his ground, however, stating that he respected their opinion and that he would present the material the Dylan-Hydes had brought with them to the full council. (View the letter given to the County Clerk HERE.)
At this point, a female couple standing against the wall wiped away tears, while several in the crowd booed and others yelled “Do the right thing!”
Another couple in attendance was Michael Anderson and Brian Baumgardner, who have been together for nine years and wish to get married. Joined by friends and SAME supporters, they headed back down the hall in an attempt to enter the Recorder’s office and get a licnese.
One supporter, identified as Mike, attempted to go through the door, but a Sheriff standing inside quickly shut it and two others were on hand to make sure he did not enter.
At this point, the group started chanting, “No marriage licenses, No peace! No justice, no peace!” and one person loudly proclaimed that if Michael and Brian could not get married, then no one else could either.
Four people sat arm in arm blocking the side entrance, with five others blocking the main entrance.
“Gay, straight, black, white; marriage is a civil right,” they chanted in unison, joined by several in the crowd. “No equality, No peace!”
“It’s the court’s choice do the right thing!” they chanted repeatedly. “We are ready, si se puede, to married, si se puede – separate is NOT equal.”
As they began chanting “David Butler do the right thing,” more sheriffs filed into the hall. They stood silently while one of them walked up and down the hall video recording the protesters and everyone else in the hallway.
For about an hour, the protesters chanted, sang hymns from the women’s and civil-rights movements.
During this time, three straight couples attempted to enter the office presumably for their own marriage licenses, and with the help of the deputies, they squeezed through or stepped over those sitting by the doors.
About 9:30 a.m., one deputy stood leaning against a wall holding dozens of zip cuffs in his hand while a group of deputies convened behind him and discussed how to proceed.
Within a few minutes, a group of five deputies approached the four protesters by the side entrance. One deputy bent down and informed them that if they did not move out of the way, they would be arrested. The protesters remained seated and the two females sitting in the middle were lifted up by deputies and placed in zip cuffs. At this point, the scene became chaotic.
The media gathered around those being arrested while deputies attempted to build a wall between everyone else and those being arrested. The two others who remained seated on the ground attempted to scoot close together, but two deputies stood immediately between them. The one male from this group was arrested next, but the fourth was left alone as a group of deputies convened down the hall.
About 10 minutes went by, when the deputy in charge asked all officers in the hallway to join them in the foyer. At this point, another 20 deputies in riot gear waiting for their orders.
Two of the protesters blocking the main entrance joined the remaining protester at the side door and they resumed their chants.
About 10 a.m., a female deputy, standing in front of what at this point was close to 50 deputies in riot gear, spoke through a megaphone.
She told the crowd that anyone not wishing to be arrested had five minutes to disperse. Several left at this point, but the protesters remained seated.
True to their word, within five minutes, the first group of deputies marched single-file down the hall. The media was ordered to remain on the left while those marching down the hall created a wall between cameras and the protesters.
In groups of four, deputies began approaching each of the remaining protesters and proceeded to place them into zip cuffs.
Anderson yelled, for all to hear, that it was a waste of taxpayer money and that they should be ashamed of themselves, before being placed into zip cuffs and led down the hall.
Three deputies in riot gear, one with a sniper rifle at his side, stood by the first and second floor stairways. Each protester was escorted by two deputies down into the basement.
Once outside, it was evident that Sheriff's Department had spared no expense in arresting these nine peaceful protesters.
A 65-passenger sheriff's bus was waiting by the building's loading dock. Two deputies brought out shackles and metal cuffs and proceeded inside.
Within a span of roughly 30 minutes, the protesters were brought out in three groups of two, and one group of three. In each incident, there were four deputies escorting the protesters onto the bus.
About 10 marriage equality supporters remained and they waved rainbow flags and chanted cheers of support, such as “Civil rights heroes, let them go!”
The protesters smiled in appreciation, and some held up peace signs. They were shackled around the waist to each other as well as handcuffed to each other.
A smaller white van proceeded to escort the bus onto the street, and the nine non-violent offenders were driven away from the county building, while many employees stood watching from the windows.
Video by Sally Hall of ThatsSoGayLive
Photos by Fernando Lopez