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Obama leaves lasting legacy, advances LGBT equality

Continue reading Obama leaves lasting legacy, advances LGBT equality

Official action: Obama designates Stonewall as a national monument

The White House announced that today President Barack Obama is designating the Stonewall Inn and its surroundings as a national monument.

The White House notice stated, “Today, President Obama will designate a new national monument at the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to honor the broad movement for LGBT equality. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the area where, on June 28, 1969, a community’s uprising in response to a police raid sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.

“The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states.”

The announcement also arrived just before several of the largest LGBT Pride celebrations take place, including in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco, and also just before the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots.

“The Stonewall National Monument will pay tribute to the brave individuals who stood up to oppression and helped ignite a fire in a movement to end unfair and unjust discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

The riots at the Stonewall Inn are a pivotal part of U.S. history and shaped the modern LGBT civil rights movement.

Griffin said, ” In the early days of our movement, the brave individuals who fought back at Stonewall and at other historic moments, helped inspire countless others. It is our hope that by honoring these pioneers, this new national monument will be a source of inspiration to a new generation of Americans across the country standing up for equality and uniting to show the world that love conquers hate. We are incredibly grateful for President Obama’s leadership in recognizing the LGBTQ community’s contributions to our nation’s march towards liberty and justice for all.”

The new monument will permanently protect Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “We tell the story of who we are through our national treasures and the president’s decision represents a new definition of inclusivity for our national park system. Stonewall’s tiny urban park has a powerful cultural history — and using the Antiquities Act to declare it a monument helps us preserve for future generations the lesser-told story of the LGBTQ community’s struggle for equality.”

On the Web

The White House released this video about the announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywtvJyXDWkk. The video will stream in Times Square over the weekend.

NYPD investigating sexual assault at Stonewall

New York City police are searching for a man suspected of sexually assaulting a transgender woman in a bathroom at the historic Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village.

Police said this week the 25-year-old woman was in a unisex bathroom at the bar when a man who has not been identified entered and sexually assaulted her.

Police said the suspect fled the bathroom, but then returned a short time later and assaulted the woman a second time.

Police said the assault happened around 11:40 p.m. on March 26. The woman was treated at an area hospital.

There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities.

Stonewall Inn is the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to the LGBT civil rights movement.

Anyone with information regarding the assailant’s identity is urged to call New York’s Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities.
There have been no arrests but the New York Daily News reported that surveillance video shows the suspect sought by authorities. — PHOTO: Courtesy Daily News

Lawmakers: Make Stonewall Inn a national park

Two New York lawmakers are leading a campaign to designate Stonewall Inn as the first national park honoring LGBT history.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler made their announcement in late September in front of the Greenwich Village tavern that was the scene of a 1969 uprising at a key moment for the nascent gay rights movement.

“When we look at our country, we have recognized women’s rights, civil rights, all kinds of rights,” Gillibrand said. “The time has come to give this part of our history an imprimatur of national importance.”

The two Democrats were joined by other elected officials and members of the National Parks Conservation Association and the Human Rights Campaign.

National parks can only be created by an act of Congress. They include sites of cultural or historic importance.

Gillibrand says she and Nadler are first asking President Barack Obama to declare Stonewall a monument. A congressional vote on park status would come later.

Gillibrand credited gay-rights activists for spurring action on giving greater recognition to the historic tavern raided by police more than four decades ago, triggering violent protests.

During his second inauguration in 2013, Obama mentioned Stonewall and the struggle for LGBT equality as being on a par with women’s and civil rights.

Stonewall would be the first park representing the gay community, but the fight isn’t over, Gillibrand said.

“Same-sex couples don’t have the same adoption rights, or the same federal benefits,” she said. “There’s more work to do.”

From protest to preservation: | Federal government identifies historic LGBT sites and events

On a warm night in June 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn, rioters rebelled against the continued persecution and harassment by government officials.

On a sunny day in late May, government officers — the highest-ranking among them member of the U.S. cabinet — gathered outside the unobtrusive brick building that stands as the symbolic birthplace of the modern gay civil rights movement to usher in LGBT Pride Month with a new initiative — a historic campaign to preserve and celebrate LGBT history.

As part of the National Park Service Heritage Initiative, a task force will spend the next 12-18 months identifying places and events associated with the story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans for inclusion in the parks programs. 

The study is part of a broader initiative under the Obama administration to ensure that the National Park Service tells a more complete story of the people and events responsible for building the nation. 

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she chose the Stonewall in New York’s Greenwich Village because it is the only LGBT-associated site designated a national historic landmark by the National Park Service as a property having extraordinary significance in American history.

“We know that there are other sites, like Stonewall Inn, that have played important roles in our nation’s ongoing struggle for civil rights,” she said.

The study will be a public-private partnership, with funding from the Gill Foundation through the National Park Foundation.

“LGBT history is American history,” said Gill Foundation founder Tim Gill. “The contributions of LGBT people are part of the great American journey toward full equality, freedom and liberty for all our citizens.”

The first meeting of scholars involved in the research took place in Washington, D.C., on June 10. Other meetings will take place over the next year.

“The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect, preserve and tell the stories of some of our nation’s most iconic places, and as part of that responsibility, it is our job to be sure that Americans never forget where we’ve been, where we are and what we aspire to be as a nation,” said Jon B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. “I am excited to see how the outcomes of the LGBT Heritage Initiative and theme study will allow us to share a more inclusive version of our uniquely American experience.”

With praise for the initiative, Clark Bunting of the National Parks Conservation Association said, “Our national parks belong to all of us — a fact that is particularly important as we look toward the Park Service’s centennial in 2016 and its next 100 years. As America’s storyteller, it is commendable and appropriate for the National Park Service to examine themes that incorporate the history and significant events of our diverse population.”

Eliza Byard, the executive director of the nation’s largest LGBT education group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, also applauded the announcement. She observed that laws banning schools from teaching anything positive about homosexuality remain on the books in eight states.

“Symbolically it’s hugely important that now LGBT history is officially part of the national narrative,” she said. “This is part of what our federal government will identify, preserve and single out.”

In keeping with tradition, there was a demonstration at the Stonewall the day of the announcement.

Activists with the grassroots group GetEqual protested on Christopher Street under the banner “Don’t Stop at Our History — Full Federal Equality Now!”

GetEqual has led the push for a presidential executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Across this country, in every single state, LGBTQ people suffer from the uncertainty created by the lack of legal protections,” said Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, GetEQUAL co-director. “A study will bring light to what we already know — that discrimination against LGBTQ people has plagued our history since its inception. We have resisted inequality and oppression for hundreds of years to be able to live as our full, authentic selves. We need President Obama to create a clear vision and a clear roadmap to full LGBTQ equality under the law under his administration, and our time is running out.”

On the register

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s inventory of properties deemed central to its history and worthy of preservation. It includes more than 89,000 entries, more than 1.7 million individual buildings and sites representing local, state or nationally significant people, places and events.

Just over 2,500 of these properties are national historic landmarks, designated by the secretary as representing the highest level of national significance.

But relatively few of these properties can be identified as representing the stories associated with African-American, American Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians or women. Currently, only four LGBT history-related properties are included in the National Register of Historic Places — the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny residence in Washington, D.C.; the Cherry Grove Community House and Theater on Fire Island in New York; the James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut, and the Carrington House on Fire Island,

Source: Interior Department

US aims to identify, promote historic LGBT sites

The National Park Service is launching an initiative to make places and people of significance to the history of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Americans part of the national narrative.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is convening a panel of 18 scholars next month that will be charged with exploring the LGBT movement’s story in areas such as law, religion, media, civil rights and the arts.  The committee will identify relevant sites and its work will be used to evaluate them for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, designation as National Historic Landmarks, or consideration as national monuments, Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said.

“The Park Service is, in my view, America’s storyteller through place,” Jarvis said “It’s important that the places we recognize represent the full complement of the American experience.”  

The process mirrors efforts the service already has undertaken to preserve and promote locations that reflect the roles of Latinos, Asian-Americans and women in U.S. history.

Jewell planned to announce the initiative on May 30 at New York’s Stonewall Inn, which was made a national landmark in 2000 and so far is the only gay-related site with that status. Stonewall is widely regarded as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In 1969, a series of riots took place outside when police raided the Greenwich Village bar and arrested patrons and employees, citing morals or indecency charges. The riots broke out when the LGBT community fought back.

But Gerard Koskovich, an independent scholar in San Francisco who will be part of the panel, said the movement actually pre-dates Stonewall by decades and goes back to the founding of the first American gay rights organization in Chicago in 1924. The freedom World War II gave gay men and lesbians to associate and the 1953 publication in Los Angeles of the first magazine with a positive portrayal of homosexuality are other early chapters that merit recognition, he said.  

“When you consider that until the 1970s the federal government was still rallying around persecuting LGBTQ people and devoted to punishing us, arresting us and excluding us, that we now see after a 40- or 50-year process a federal government saying that we are now part of the stories that deserve to be told and protected is really remarkable,” Koskovich said.

The initiative, which is expected to be completed by 2016, is being financed by Colorado philanthropist Tim Gill, the founder of software company Quark Inc. and a major donor to gay political and civil rights causes.

“While we take this important step to recognize the courageous contributions of LGBT Americans, we need to unite together in the days ahead to ensure we leave none of our fellow Americans behind,” Gill said.

A long way from Stonewall, and sometimes a slog

From Stonewall in New York in 1969 to the marble walls of the Supreme Court, the push to advance gay rights has moved forward, often glacially but recently at a quickening pace. A look at episodes in the modern history of that movement and how attitudes have changed along the way in the larger culture:

FLASH BACK

Fifty years ago, gay sex was a crime in almost every state, homosexuality was designated a mental disorder, federal workers could easily lose their jobs for being gay and only the outliers were out of the closet, a risky if not dangerous place to be.

FLASH FORWARD

Gay marriage is legal in a dozen states and the District of Columbia, and could soon be again in California after the court’s ruling Wednesday.

Gays can serve openly in the armed forces and do so in high office, including Congress. Eight people who have served as a U.S. ambassador or been nominated for that post are openly gay. Openly gay entertainers are commonplace, athletes less so.

It can still be dangerous to be out of the closet, which is why Congress expanded federal hate-crimes legislation in 2009 to cover crimes motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The law is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tied to a fence, beaten and left to die in a 1998 case that sparked hate-crimes laws around the country.

IN THE COURT

The Supreme Court turned a stone cold face to Frank Kameny in 1961, declining to hear his appeal after he was fired as a government astronomer for being gay. It did so again in 1970, dismissing an appeal by two men in Minnesota who fought for the right to marry. And in 1986, the court upheld a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy, part of a patchwork of laws around the nation that once made gay sex a crime coast to coast.

The tide began to shift in the 1990s. In 1996, a ruling by the high court opened an avenue for states to protect gays as a class against discrimination. It struck down a Colorado measure that sought to bar gays from gaining protections that are extended to other groups based on their race or religion.

In 2003, 10 years to the day before Wednesday’s rulings, the Supreme Court stripped away the taboo at the heart of gay relationships, ruling that consensual sex between adults was not a crime so state sodomy laws could not stand. The court reversed its ruling of 17 years earlier on the Georgia law, and Justice Antonin Scalia, in a pointed and seemingly prophetic dissent, predicted it would clear the way for same-sex marriage.

Two years before his death in 2011, Kameny received an apology from the government for firing him. The apology came from John Berry, then director of the Office of Personnel Management, now nominated as ambassador to Australia, himself openly gay.

The rulings Wednesday extend federal recognition to gay marriages in the states where they are legal and seem bound to add California back into that category. But they leave same-sex marriage prohibitions standing in 35 states – 29 under state constitutions, six under state laws – and the overarching question of marriage equality as a national right unresolved. Two states, New Mexico and New Jersey, neither approve nor ban gay marriage.

IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION

In 1996, when the Defense of Marriage Act became law, the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey reported that 60 percent of respondents considered same-sex sex “always wrong.” With political opinion closely tracking public sentiments in that election year, the ground was hardly fertile for something as far-reaching as gay marriage.

In September of that year, the Senate backed DOMA and its prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex gay marriage by a lopsided 85-14 vote, and later that month President Bill Clinton signed it. Although he said he didn’t like the law, he made clear – as did almost everyone else in both parties – that he considered marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.

That was the prevailing bottom line in Washington right up until last year, when President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage in a flip-flop that he called an evolution.

Separately in 1996, a bill to establish anti-discrimination measures in the workplace for gays failed, though the vote was much closer.

Grim as the picture appeared then for gay rights activists, there were signs of a slow thaw in public attitudes. A few years earlier, fully 75 percent frowned on gay sex in the Social Survey. In 1996, more people thought extramarital sex was wrong than opposed gay sex.

Social scientists found that Americans were more open to a situation or a behavior when it was distant from their daily lives. So support for employment equality was stronger for the gay airline pilot than for the grade school teacher, stronger for gays in the armed forces than for gays adopting children, stronger for domestic partnership benefits in the workplace than for the right of a gay couple to get an apartment in your building.

Public attitudes have changed dramatically – and in part for reasons that turn out to be close to home.

An Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll in the fall found 53 percent favored legal recognition of same-sex marriage and 63 percent favored granting gay couples the same legal benefits straight couples had. Other polls, too, pointed to a switch to majority support for gay marriage. In March, the Pew Research Center, which pegged support for marriage equality at 49 percent, found that support had grown in large measure because more people knew someone who was gay – a family member, friend or acquaintance. Familiarity had bred acceptance.

MILESTONES

What became known as the gay liberation movement traces its roots to the 1969 police crackdown of patrons at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York City and three days of riots that followed. Also in 1969, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling barred the firing of civil servants solely because they were gay.

By then, the Mattachine Society, considered the first national gay rights organization, had been around for nearly two decades but activists largely stayed out of the public eye until the 1970s, a decade of change, bold demands for more and the first national gay rights march on Washington.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The decade saw the first openly gay people elected to public office as well as the election of other officials committed to the cause. In the 1980s, the spread of AIDS and its devastating toll among gay men galvanized calls for action, not just to control the epidemic but to redress the absence of legal protections for gays who could not visit their partners in hospital rooms, attend their funerals or keep shared possessions after death.

The election of a Democratic president in 1992 held out the promise of a change in course for gay activists frustrated by the years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But Clinton was not about to upend the social order.

As a leader promoting a “third way” somewhere between the usual politics of the left and the right, Clinton took measured steps on gay rights, perhaps most notably his compromise on gays in the military. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allowed gays to serve as long as they weren’t open seemed to please no one on either side – though for such an unpopular step, it survived a long time.

The pace of federally financed AIDS research picked up; Clinton established an AIDS policy office in the White House.

More politicians began supporting the recognition of same-sex civil unions while drawing a line against marriage equality. But a court case through the early 1990s in Hawaii, in which three same-sex couples fought for the right to marry, prompted a rush to the ramparts by opponents of gay marriage and set the stage for enactment of the law barring federal recognition of such unions.

That law and the swirling circumstances around it were a catalyst for action for supporters and opponents alike.

In 1998, Hawaii voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment giving lawmakers the power to deny same-sex marriage, making the court case irrelevant. Thirty other states would pass amendments against gay marriage in years to come. Among them: California, where the ability for gays to marry is expected to be restored because of the Supreme Court ruling.

Massachusetts, in 2004, became the first state to permit gay marriage. More followed suit.

In 2010, a court struck down Florida’s three-decade-old ban on adoptions by gays.

In 2011, Obama ended the Clinton-era compromise in military policy by opening the forces to people who are openly gay.

In 2012, voters approved same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington state. This year, Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota are coming on board.

Because of the Supreme Court’s action Wednesday, 30 percent of Americans will live in states recognizing same-sex marriage once California legalizes it.

That’s a long journey in time, and attitudes, from Stonewall 44 years ago. But these are far from the final steps for either side.

Hate crime charge pursued in killing of gay man in New York

The man who police say hurled homophobic slurs at a gay man on a Manhattan street before firing a single fatal shot to his head appeared in court on May 19 to face a charge of murder as a hate crime.

Elliot Morales, who appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court, is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, according to the complaint filed Sunday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Authorities said the Greenwich Village resident used a silver revolver to kill 32-year-old Mark Carson early May 18 as he walked with a companion in Morales’ neighborhood.

Morales was ordered held without bail pending another court appearance on May 23. His attorney, Reginald Sharpe, could not be reached for comment.

On May 18, seconds before opening fire in the lively Village streets just after midnight, police say Morales followed Carson and a companion through the Village, asking if they “want to die here,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Police said Morales then yelled anti-gay slurs before shooting Carson point-blank in the face in a neighborhood long known as a bedrock of the gay rights movement.

Morales was soon arrested a few blocks away.

He has a previous arrest for attempted murder in 1998, police said. Details of that arrest weren’t immediately clear.

The New York Daily News reported that Morales allegedly confessed to police – and laughed about shooting Carson.

The shooting scene is a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to gay rights when patrons reacted to police harassment.

The killing follows a spate of recent bias attacks on gay men in New York. Kelly said police were looking into possible links between the incidents.

The shooting stunned a city where, in many neighborhoods, same-sex couples now walk freely holding hands. It also comes at a time when the gay marriage movement is gaining momentum in many parts of the United States. Twelve states have legalized same-sex marriage, including New York in 2011.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project and other activist groups were planning a march and rally against anti-LGBT violence for the night of May 20.

Also, activists planned to do outreach in neighborhoods on Friday nights throughout May and June.

Meanwhile, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, issued a statement regarding the series of anti-gay crimes and the hate-motivated killing of Carson. Chad Griffin said, “When an innocent person can be beaten or killed simply on the basis of their identity, something is profoundly sick and wrong. There’s not an LGBT person who didn’t hear about this horrendous murder and think: ‘that could have been me.'”

“As long as discrimination remains a feature of this nation’s laws, as long as second class citizenship trickles down into our schools and our communities, these crimes and the terror they instill will never stop.”

“We pledge liberty and justice for all, but every one of us has a duty to make those words a reality. We can’t be patient and simply wait for equality, because the next Mark Carson is running out of time right now. Equality is an urgent fight – a fight that continues until our nation’s laws treat all our citizens equally, with respect and dignity, in all parts of our lives. This is a fight that involves all Americans who believe in civil rights and equality for every citizen.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with victims’ families, and we thank the police and other agencies for their full and ongoing investigation of these heinous acts.”

At Stonewall, NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy denounced

Gathered recently at the Stonewall Inn where riots sparked the modern gay rights movement in June 1969, civil rights activists, labor leaders and lawmakers denounced the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.

The coalition also announced a silent march on Father’s Day that’s being organized by the NAACP, National Action Network and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Speaker after speaker at the Stonewall Inn for the Stonewall Summit denounced the stop-and-frisk policy as ineffective as a public safety tool and discriminatory. An analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union has revealed that more than 4 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2011, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.

Speakers at the Stonewall included:

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who said, “Too many people have been victimized and harmed by the stop and frisk policy, and we plan to march in record numbers on Father’s Day to show that discrimination, harassment and profiling based on identity is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This is one struggle – one fight – we’re all committed to winning. The fight against stop and frisk is a LGBT fight, a civil rights fight, a labor movement fight, a fight for justice and equality-a fight that unites all of us as one movement. We’re telling the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg that all New Yorkers deserve to live free of discrimination and harassment.”

Jeffrey Campagna, co-chair of the march, said, “There is no better time than LGBT Pride month and no better place than the Stonewall Inn to unveil this national coalition of organizations and to show that shared experiences with police harassment and discrimination unify LGBT people and people of color. By coming together, we are telling the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg that as advocates for equality and justice, we are mobilizing against criminalization based on identity.”

Sharon Stapel of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and another march co-chair, said, “Police violence has always been and continues to be an LGBTQ issue: In our 2011 report we found that transgender people, people of color and transgender people of color were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to experience police violence throughout the country.

Christine Quinn, New York city council speaker and a likely candidate for mayor, said, “I’m proud to stand with LGBT leaders in support of the Father’s Day March. Together we can send a message that more must be done to significantly reduce the number of unwarranted stops and to bridge the divide between the NYPD and the communities they serve.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and convener of the march, also spoke at the Stonewall Inn. He said, “The coming together of civil rights leaders and LGBT leaders on this issue is a historic union with broad social and political ramifications. If we fight for each others’ issues it broadens and strengthens each respective movement.

NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous added, “The African American and LGBT communities have long histories of being harassed by the police. In this silent march to end racial profiling we will stand together to tell city hall and NYPD that discriminatory policing policies like stop-and-frisk will not be tolerated.”

Other speakers included activist Robert Pinter, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Communities United for Police Reform director Joo-Hyun Kang, labor leader George Gresham, youth activist Chris Bilal, New York Trans Rights Organization director Melissa Sklarz, NGLTF staffer Stacey Long, Lambda Legal executive director Kevin Cathcart, HRC field director Marty Rouse and Gay Men’s Health Crisis CEO Marjorie Hill.

“Public safety is important, but must not be a noose around the neck of young men of color, constraining them from reaching their potential and unfairly stigmatizing them. Stigma and shame often lead to devaluation of self, promotion of risky behaviors,” said Hill.

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