In July of 1993, in response to complains by local residents, Cobb County Chairman, Bill Byrne questioned funding for Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, particularly as two of its plays — M. Butterfly and Lips Together, Teeth Apart — included mild gay themes. In August, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, led by Gordon Wysong, passed two resolutions. One indicated that funding would only be provided for art that promoted “strong comunity, family-oriented standards.” The other stated that “lifestyles advocated by the gay community should not be endorsed by government policy makers, because they are incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes; and that gay lifestyle units are directly contrary to state law.”
Marietta activist Jon Greaves and local community members immediately responded. They organized as Cobb Citizens Coalition (CCC) to challenge the resolutions. The Coalition’s activities included a rally of over 400 people in the Marietta Square and raising funds for a billboard on I-75 that read “Stop the Hate, Rescind the Resolution.”
“I opened up the little neighborhood paper and the headlines said, “County Commission to Consider Anti-Gay Resolution.” So I was on the phone within 30 minutes, and asked how I could help. There was a meeting at the Smyrna Library – basically a tactical meeting. How can we organize to fight this?”
Carol Brown, November 18, 2015
Several thousand people showed up. The area around the gazebo in Marietta Square was standing room only. I was a little worried about counter-demonstrators, so I asked the ACT UP people would you come and be peace marshals? We had already started getting some calls with death threats, and some of that got into the newspaper. And the day of the rally, 6:00 am sharp in the morning, my phone rang, and it was the Marietta police chief. And he said, “Jon, we know about death threats against you, and we’re not sure we can protect you, and we want you to call off this rally. I said, “Well, no, we’re not going to call it off. I don’t even know how we’d do that.”
So we got there for the rally and there were police all over. There were counter-demonstrators there. There were people with big signs that said things like, “Praise God for AIDS,” “Out of the closet and into the coffin,” and “God hates fags.”
Toward the end of the rally, I was on stage, and I was speaking, and a police officer came up on the stage and put his hand over the microphone, and he whispered in my ear, “You need to get off the stage. We have a device.” I said, “What is a device?” He said, “We think there’s a bomb under the stage.” They got people away from the stage, and here came this guy with one of those armored suits on and the helmet. It wasn’t under the stage, it was behind the stage, maybe ten, fifteen feet back from where I was standing. On the ground, there was this metal cylinder with wires. They brought up this pick-up truck with a trailer with a bomb disposal unit. [The guy] picked up this thing and carried it over real carefully and put it in [the trailer], and they closed it and drove off. I think I started crying.
Jon Greaves, June 21, 2014. Courtesy of Kennesaw University Archives
The CCC gained important allies in February 1994, when Atlanta-based activists Pat Hussain and Jon-Ivan Weaver established Olympics Out of Cobb County (OOCC). Their mission was to persuade Atlanta’s Committee for the Olympic Games not to hold the women’s volleyball competition in Cobb County as planned. As well as conducting their own outreach, OOCC joined forces with CCC at a number of events, including a “Rolling Roadblock” on I-75 that was designed to slow traffic on all lanes.
“The international Olympic Committee was coming to town, and during their visit we wanted to give them an idea of what it would be like during the Olympics. We knew that there was a Braves game that night. So we got our cars together, and we went out around Windy Hill Road then spread out and got on the interstate to start driving at the speed limit, the lower limit, so kind of cruising down. And Jon had a reporter riding with him. There were helicopters over the cars, and they pulled Jon Ivan over, and we all got off, and they were really mad. “Get back on the road.” So we went back out and re-stopped the traffic because they were all — now they’re stuck behind this jam, and that was great.”
Pat Hussain, March 31, 2017
Ultimately the women’s volleyball competition was held at the University of Georgia, and the Olympic Torch bypassed Cobb County.