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‘He Said, She Said’ Mars Georgia Women’s Gathering

October 9, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Georgia Women’s Festival, held last weekend in Tattnall County in southeast Georgia, faced harassment from local police and protesters, according to a press release from the festival. However, the owner of the campground where the festival was held and a woman who attended the event are contesting the allegations, according to Southern Voice.

The festival was held Oct. 2-4 at Roy’s Hideaway Campground, a private gay and lesbian campground in Collins, Ga. Organizers claim the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Department denied them permits for the event and failed to respond when neighbors lined the road near the campground, shooting guns and shouting slurs including “queers go home.”

Tattnall County Sheriff Quinton Rush declined comment when contacted by Southern Voice.

Vicki Blankenship, a lesbian who has organized music festivals as volunteer president of Indiegrrl Women in the Arts Inc., said the problems with last weekend’s festival began Friday with complaints that music was being played too loudly – even though the music had not even started. Blankenship said the festival was denied a permit.

“The deputies stated they had lots of complaints about the noise and a permit would allow us to override the complaints,” she said.

“After the deputies left the premises, people lined up outside the fenced perimeter of the campground and began yelling obscenities at the festival attendees and chanted obscenities. One neighboring piece of property had cars line up in a field that separated the properties between them and the campground and shined their car headlights down into the campground, blared loud music from their car speakers, and proceeded to fire guns down into the pond areas in the campground,” Blankenship said.

Roy McLeroy, owner of the campground, denied all of the allegations Blankenship made, saying he is treated with respect and kindness by his neighbors as well as the sheriff’s department.

He did say the fest was not able to get a permit and the police did ask for the music to be turned down.

“But then Vicki Blankenship made it into a political thing,” McLeroy said.

“They never got shut down, there were maybe three shots fired Friday night but the neighbors were shooting at beavers. There were no protesters,” he added. “Some of my neighbors came because they wanted to listen to the music but I had to tell them that it was a women’s only event. But still three people bought T-shirts. What [Blankenship] said never happened.”

There were never the serious problems Blankenship alleges, he added, and said he thought she was trying to create publicity for herself.

“She’s causing all kinds of damage,” he said. “I have total support in my community and have never had any problems. This is hurting us.”

Carolyn Bowden, president of First City Network in Savannah, Ga., the oldest LGBT group in the state, said she was there and saw nothing of what Blankenship is claiming in her press release.

“I really am flabbergasted,” she said today.

“I was there so when I read this [on sovo.com], my jaw hit the floor,” she said. “The only thing that happened is she was denied a permit. None of this other stuff happened.”

Bowden said her trailer was just 50 yards away from the cabin where Blankenship stayed and she slept with the windows open and did not hear any gunshots over the weekend.

Blankenship stated the harassment against festival attendees continued on Saturday, including people lining up around the campground and again shouting onscenities.

“There was not a soul on the road yelling epithets. That never happened. And this kind of thing damages our community,” Bowden added. “I’m shocked this is what she has put out that this is what came out of that weekend. Everyone was having a good time.”

Blankenship said no future festivals would be held in Tattnall County.

“It is unacceptable for this type of blatant harassment and prejudicial treatment to go on and the lives of U.S. citizens to be put in jeopardy,” she said.

“There was a severe and open violation of civil rights on offering equal protection by the law in Tattnall County. This violation of safety was not a gay thing or a straight thing, it was a human thing and a violation of human safety and human rights occurred,” she added.

Tattnall County is about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.

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