ANDOVER — A small group of about 30-40 protesters gathered at the base of the Lanam Club's driveway Monday evening to object to Gov. Charlie Baker's presence at a fundraiser for state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.
The crowd, donning signs and stickers for Democratic candidates ranging from Lyons' challenger, Tram Nguyen, to gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez, held blue campaign signs as well as handmade signs declaring Baker, a moderate Republican, a "wolf in sheep's clothing."
The protesters' main concern was Lyons' history of not supporting — or even working to undo — protections for the LGBT community, especially transgender people. Lyons is currently backing a referendum on the 2018 ballot that has the potential to repeal the transgender protection bill passed in 2016, widely known as the "bathroom bill," the passage of which allowed transgender individuals to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
The protest was organized by Gonzalez's campaign in an effort to highlight what he described as Baker's hypocrisy.
"You have to watch the difference between what Gov. Baker says and what we does. And by being here, to actively help Jim Lyons get reelected to the Statehouse, Gov. Baker is actively working against ... basic rights for transgender people. He is actively working against banning the horrific practice of gay conversion therapy."
Among the candidates who came out to the protest were Gonzalez, Nguyen, 3rd congressional district candidates Alexandra Chandler and state Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, as well as gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie.
Lyons and Baker did not respond to the protest, which had largely broken up by 7 p.m. The fundraising event was closed to the press, who were asked to leave the Lanam property.
Chandler, a transgender woman, said she came to the event to stand "in solidarity" with those protesting.
"For myself, it's particularly poignant in that I am an openly transgender woman," she said, noting that she transitioned 12 years ago while working for the Office of Naval Intelligence under President George W. Bush. "The fact that we still have relics of the past who haven't seemed to have gotten the message of the last 12 years, that we are past this type of ignorance and hate and fear in our politics and in our culture, is just maddening to me."
Nguyen, a political newcomer challenging Lyons for his seat, said she became interested in politics while working as an attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services, a nonprofit that provides free legal assistance and representation to low-income families to help them secure basic needs like housing and job protection.
"This is about community values, and Jim does not share the values of this community," Nguyen said.
"The governor also prides himself on working across the aisle, building a bipartisan coalition, and this is not something that Lyons has been able to do, and in fact, he hasn't been able to work with even other Republicans, let alone the Democractic majority," she added. "And I find that very, very concerning that the governor is out here supporting such an extreme person."
In addition to concerns about Lyons' relationship with the LGBT community, the protesters expressed dismay with his attitude toward immigrants, abortion and the state budget, which he has repeatedly voted against.
Among those also protesting were campaign staffers and citizens concerned about Lyons' anti-LGBT agenda. Aldebran Longabaugh-Burg, whose son is transgender, said she was there out of frustration with Baker's inaccessibility to herself and fellow pro-transgender-rights activists.
"His door was closed to us," she said. "He's here to fundraise for hate."