Florida Holocaust Museum Awards Banquet
Still photos transmitted over cell phone published on web in near real-time
On January 17, 2004 at 7PM the Florida Holocaust Museum had its 4th Annual "To Life Awards" Banquet in the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa, Florida. Honored guests included actor John Voight and World Heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield. But at 4:30PM a crowd assembled outside the Hyatt to protest the event. Why would anyone want to protest a function sponsored by the Florida Holocaust Museum! Well the protesters know about the great Straight Holocaust and the people responsible for it. They know about Straight's grand-scale violation of human rights and civil liberties of thousands of American teenagers. The protesters were protesting the fact that the Florida Holocaust Museum was founded by Walter Lobenberg who happens to be former president of Straight Foundation and who continues to be on the board of Straight under its current name--the Drug Free America Foundation. The protesters' grievance is documented in their flier/press release here. Last summer Reverend Doctor Miller Newton, Straight's former national clinical director, settled with former client Lulu Corter for $6.5 million for the abuse he directed to be inflicted on her at his second-generation Straight--KIDS of New Jersey. That story is here.
Besides Mr. Loebenberg, the Florida Holocaust Museum recently named Dr. Bruce Epstein as an interim director. Dr. Epstein is a former Straight board member himself. Worse yet, from the point of view of the protesters, Straight founders Mel and Betty Sembler are (or have been) Florida Holocaust board members. The protesters say they want the Florida Holocaust Museum to sever all associations with anyone connected to Straight.
There were over twenty protesters and, interestingly enough, most of them had never been in Straight themselves but know of its dastardly reputation for organized child abuse. Marti Heath, a citizen from the Tampa area, has volunteered to be a spokesperson for the group. The protest stopped promptly at 7PM. (Note: For the first time theStraights dot com had picture images phoned in as they were shot. We put those photos on the web as soon as they were received thus allowing us to publish in almost real-time.)