Westboro Baptist Church Resistance Report: Friday, January 30th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Westboro Baptist Church takes a shotgun approach to protesting. Spending no more than 30 to 45 minutes at a single location. We followed them through several different locations throughout Phoenix according to their schedule, which they posted loud and clear in order to attract counter-protesters. Especially they were probably interested in media attention. They don’t do a very good job of actually getting their message across—especially in the media—because instead of focusing on their message, the media makes them look like insane people.

The first location we visited involved a military funeral for a soldier who died in Iraq.

As Kazz was pulling his sign and some other things out of the back of his vehicle we were passed by a suspicious looking man. Overweight, sunglasses, greasy hair, and sauntered past and then back again and started to ask if we were going to the protest. He then identified himself without credentials as a police officer. “We just want everyone to have a safe, good time,” he said. So did the Resistance so there was no reason to have much concern.

We got there ten minutes before they left the funeral protest. They had set up over 100 meters away from the actual location of the cemetery, far out of line of sight, and even out of sight of the freeway. The Resistance and at least three others—including a photographer—set up across the freeway exit ramp. One man, who went to every single protest, stood with a two meter length US flag.

Outside of the German Consulate—which we still don’t know where it is because it was so nondescript—the counter-protesters ran into an issue with a person who identified themselves as the groundskeeper of 1002 Missouri. He blurted out, “Keep them off of the property!” at the counter-protesters. He then went to the police, spoke with them, and then threatened the counter-protesters with arrest if they went on the property. At no time did the counter-protesters, the Resistance, or anyone even appear to be going on the property he was protecting. He behaved belligerent and rudely. Perhaps he was in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church protest which was across the street from the counter-protest? Maybe mixed them up? Or perhaps he just didn’t care and simply likes to threaten people for doing things they weren’t. The police appeared thoroughly uninterested in his complaint (possibly because the counter-protest was small, didn’t move towards the property, and weren’t as scary as the WBC.)

After that final protest the police approached the counter-protesters to talk about what might be happening at the high school—which would turn out to be the hugest part of the protest. The WBC obviously chose the Desert Mountain High School venue because it would draw a great deal of attention. Media, and otherwise. They were going to put their riotous protest right in front of a school, after all, in the vicinity of a middle school and a grade school. The police decided that it would be best to cordon the area. Not because they were concerned about counter-protesters; but because the high school students probably wouldn’t be as disciplined as adults.

To their credit: the high school students were nothing short of awesome.

The Resistance set up their tripod and speaker at the front of the student cordon, surrounded by signs admonishing bigotry, elevating humanity, professing love and adoration for all people—students and counter-protesters alike were invited to use the speaker to provide speeches to the WBC.

“We can see you dancing to our music over there; if you want to put down your sign, and come over to this side, you’ll be welcome over here!” They said the Fred Phelp’s granddaughter.

The counter-protest drown out anything that the WBC hoped to say: music, speeches, hopeful words…

And at least one rickroll.

With a turn out that exceeded three hundred people, it was the largest protest. The presence of media, counter-protesters from across the state, FOX News, and other media. Apparently the rickroll elicited some unhappy grimaces from Shirley Roper-Phelps as a news interview took place.

A member of the Resistance, Brian Key, managed to make the news broadcast, as did the Resistance speaker, and my top hat.

During the protest at the high school, I spoke with Greg and Jose, two Catholic priests (at least, I believe so because they were wearing Roman collars) who had come with cameras and regularly counter-protest the WBC. They told me about an inititive that they are part of called “No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice” (http://nolongersilent.org/). This group is especially rankled by the WBC because the behavior of the family-cult pollutes the public perception of Christianity, churches, and the proper behavior of religious figures. They appear to be a primarily Phoenix based group.

The final leg of the protest circuit happened in Tempe, near the Chyro Arts Venue where they were going to show Closet Drama: A Hetero/Homo Collision. The counter-protesters visited the parking lot, received information on the play, and even spoke with members of the venue about the play itself and the existence of the protest. If nothing else, the presence of WBC coming out to their venue greatly increased knowledge of the play for the surrounding community.

For those interested, here is a web resource about Closet Drama:

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/events/closet-drama-a-homo-hetero-collision-1031932/

http://www.chyro.org/

The TEAM security were the poorest behaved of the would-be security. When they approached the Resistance and the other gathered protesters they went through the same spiel that the police did elsewhere, but instead of presenting the problems of a protest they immediately threatened violence. Stupidly undiplomatic talking about Macing people if things got out of hand. “If anything happens, you’ll get Maced, and then we’ll handcuff everyone. I mean everyone.” The actual police took a far more peaceful and hopeful tact of talking about how they were cordoning off the area and where the do-not-cross lines were. They did not threaten to Mace the protesters, they did not threaten anyone with arrest; they were civil, thoughtful, and lent their presentation to giving the protesters a safe place and manner to protest.

In the future TEAM may want to revise their tactics for talking to protesters because threatening people with assault is a bad idea. It sets up a violent atmosphere and makes the entire situation inherently more dangerous. Or, just wait for the police to arrive before they say anything more than, “This is private property, the venue here doesn’t want to be connected to the protest, since they’re not,” and avoid making violent threats. TEAM are not police officers, if they Mace someone they can and will be arrested, they cannot handcuff people; they are not extensions of the policing force and if they commit assault they themselves will be arrested and charged accordingly.

Shame on those TEAM security workers; please act smarter next time.

The WBC set up far away from the venue, on the corner with Skysong visible on the horizon. Counter-protesters flooded around the Wells Fargo there, trying not to clog the drive-thru ATMs while they drown out the bad singing, and petulant slogans of the WBC. Although, this was to be their longest protest, they only stayed an hour total. The gathering reached at least seventy people at its largest, a snowball second only to the high school counter-protest.

I saw a good number of people from the high school there as well, including visitations by the Phoenix Anonymous.

Overall, everything went great. As an experience this was wonderful, the turn out against WBC was solid, the media did not protray them as anything other than wackjobs, they managed once-again to build stronger community ties through bringing together gay activists. They have helped the gay community by bringing light to a play that had little notice before.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 10th, 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 10th 2009 (when it goes up.)

I was out wandering the Ave for a little while before the Resistance made their appearance. The Mill Avenue evangelicals set up outside of the Post Office, primarily in the form of Al; and Shawn3 was also present with several others.

Joe made an appearance today with a staff made out of a saguaro rib; spent most of the night speaking with a boy who was in the 8th grade about subjects spanning almost every sinew of human knowledge. Unfortunately, a great deal of these subjects require years of different classes just to grasp the interesting basics of, or at least hundreds of hours of documentaries. They ranged from basic Big Bang cosmology, the synthesis of elements, the formation of the solar system, the formation of the earth and moon, the cooling of the earth, radiology, radiological statistical analysis, the composition of the solar system (and cosmos), gravity, gravitation, and finally it slammed right into linguistics! Talk about making some ridiculous and impossible to fully translate leaps.

Fun listening though.

One of the fundamental issues with the discussion is that in philosophical epistemology there is the well known concept of indeterminacy. There is no certainty. One of the questions that the boy had about the subject had to do with colors—I the linguistic concept of definition. Definitions are definitive not certain; in fact, it’s readily shown that definitions in language are arbitrary, used for the primary purpose of communication and agreement. Everything in both our daily lives and science works on a principal of “certain enough.” I am certain enough that my pen will fall if I let go of it while holding it above the floor to expect that it shall; I cannot be totally certain because I cannot predict the future. However, for the purpose of sheer practicality “certain enough” is more than good enough for me to not let go of my pen because I don’t want to have to bend down and pick it up again.

The evangelicals also appear to have brought some wacky posters with them that play with cognitive linguistic hacks to display something? I assume that they’re trying to show that the senses of the world are fallible, but every argument from illusion has long been put down by epistemology and empirical consensus of the world. Interestingly, an image of Albert Einstein is also prominent on the poster.

PARIS / IN THE / THE SPRING

BIRD / IN THE / THE HAND

ONCE / IN A / A LIFETIME

These words are set up inside triangles so that each line is below the other and expanding outwards. This relies on a particular linguistic scanning trick—in natural English language cognition the processing of the words does not actually read articles and particles, they are accepted as parts of the grammar and structure but do not affect the overall meaning of the sentence. In fact, articles are even less process intense than particles (i.e. “the book” is easier to read than “her book,” as my editor has pointed out numerous times.) As a result while reading aloud the person will tend to drop the second declarative article, reading instead the first line as: “Paris in the spring.” Without saying “the” twice.

Shawn3 also brought out a big sign of his own on the top of a PVC pole.

Shawn3 requested that I spell check the sign below before I posted it… I don’t know why, it wasn’t misspelled on his sign. The words were extremely simple—maybe he didn’t write it himself. (Either that or he knows of an incident with Brother Jed where he has a banner that it thoroughly misspelled.)

JESUS
DIED FOR YOUR
SINS
AND AROSE FROM
THE DEAD.

This particular sign espouses the Christian myth of the resurrection from the dead of the god Jesus (a common mythological structure of a lot of cultural mythologies of gods—although interesting events of non-resurrections are also prevalent like Baldr and Orpheus’s Eurydice.) The other side had some of the usual fear and shame rhetoric about sin and I didn’t see it long enough to carve out exactly what it stated. It was a giant black velum sign with yellow and white lettering.

They also had a brief visitation by a small group of teens who wore interesting outfits. Particularly, they were wearing green hoodies with enneagrams, within which a cross set atop a circle circumscribed an inverted T (like the old map of the world symbol) all surmounted by a crown. All done with simple lines.

The symbol inside of the ennegrams is basically a version of the Cross Triumphant, or in this case a globus cruciger, with a crown above it. It is the emblem of the Carthusian monks, whose motto “Stat crux dum volvitur orbus” (the cross is steady while the world turns.) It appears to be a common component of all the symbolism connected to the United Church of Christ[1]. This symbol particularly interested me because I recognize it as extremely similar to a pagan symbol of the same concept: a dominating line over the orb of the Earth. In fact, British royalty is sworn in holding this orb in one hand (see: Scepter, Orb, and Crown.[2])

It is questionable as to why this particular symbol is then circumscribed by the enneagram. The enneagram (or nine pointed star, in this case double-inverted, making it an arch.)[3] Occult usages of the ennegram happen to include the Kabbalistic traditions, including the Christian Kabbalah from the Renaissance. The combination of the enneagram symbol with the UCC glyph lends me to believe the full diagram may be connected to a Cabbalistic tradition or at least some group that is somewhat familiar.

Example of the unknown symbol on green sweater
Fig 1.1: Example of the unknown symbol on a green sweater. Click for larger image.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_church_of_christ
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb_and_scepter
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enneagram.svg

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 13th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 13th 2008.

As promised I went around and tried to ask as many people as I could about Temple at the Center of Time. Insofar, nobody in the Way of the Master group know what it is. I am thinking that Kazz and others will just have to read it as per Ross’s suggestion to know what it is. I am going to expand my search for critiques to tell everyone what it’s about, but I find it doubtful that many know. It seems to be an extremely fringe philosophical treatise.

The Resistance arrived on Mill at about 7pm, but I didn’t get there to observe until around 8:50pm.

JustStopAndThink.com

This group set up in front of the entrance to the Mill Ave Drum Circle again tonight between the Valley Art Theater and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Informally known as “Jesus Water” in the vulgar argot of the street rats, they interact with the public by offering free water to the masses.

I believe that Joe stopped and talked to Rob-roy and the retelling of his experience went something along the lines of. “He was cordial, but that stiffened rather after he learned that I was an atheist.” Although, I don’t know how much of that was transference; I don’t doubt that the conversation was readily friendly. Rob-roy is a contributor to the StreetFishing blog on Blogspot.

They manage their evangelism by talking to people who squeeze between them to reach the drum circle and also those walking past on the street. Especially those they invite in to receive the free water. Also, the water bottles contain tracts on their labels. The street rats tend to take them and then shred the labels off, meaning that I’ve never gotten one of my own from them yet—also as I never really need water I don’t feel the need to countenance taking one and then not using it.

I don’t end up talking to them very often, but they definitely have a presence on Mill Ave.

Marcus and Tish

(I hope that I am spelling everyone’s names correctly here.)

Also standing with the JustStopAndThink people handing out water were two others whom I’m sure that the Resistance have met before as they created a YouTUBE video involving them.

Didn’t have much time to talk to them, they were mostly handing out tracts. Our conversation did get interrupted a few times by a brand new drum circle visitor who is having a little bit of trouble integrating herself into the community. Mostly I just chatted to get my observations down.

The Way of the Master Evangelicals

The Resistance arrived in front of Borders. Saw Suzanne, her daughter, Erin, Al, Edwin, and others; the group ended up dismantling far earlier than usual; but there were some highlights here and there with the sound system setup. They caroled for a little while in front of Borders and then the Resistance set up their speaker and played some Edward Current videos.

There was some commentary about music vs. music playing. Al had set his speaker to play some sort of music, but then Kazz started playing something else, but seemingly louder (from where I was standing.) Creating a bit of a dissonance. However, that whole thing resolved rather quickly.

Then a few moved away from Borders to the Post Office—Edwin and Brian—but the moment the Resistance decided to move to the Post Office they left, with the words, “Oh it’s you guys.” Pretty much they managed to speak for a while, found at least one really drunk guy, who they tried to get to do the Good Person Test but he was a bit … drunk.

The night wrapped itself up in front of Urban Outfitters with mostly Al speaking on the microphone. He managed to stick the entire night out until the Resistance packed up near 1am.

We also had the weird experience of receiving some Pop-it microexplosives from a newcomer. And I must admit, it was me who distributed them to people because they are an awesome little device and a lot of fun. I did not do it to disrupt Al and his preaching, but at the time that I handed them out he wasn’t really speaking to people except in small groups.

Hanna, who gave me the Pop-its, said to Kazz that she had her respect for humanity restored when she found people resistance the preachers and had visited the STFS table at ASU a few times. I, for one, enjoy the presence of fun wackiness for Mill Ave.

There was also some strange shouting and shrieking from the Resistance when someone yelled “The power of Christ compels you!” at Kazz and the response was … interesting. I hadn’t known that he could produce such a lifelike impression of those TV evangelist preachers who tend to shout, in a drawling voice, pretty much the same thing.

I guess that they are just easy to parody.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 6th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 6th 2008.

Ah, Art Festival how we love thee. It brings out numerous people, allows us broad forums to have discussions, and a great deal of cultural dialogue.

The Way of the Master evangelicals

They didn’t last long. The set up had Al, Lee, John, Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Sean, and others—most of them left the scene at about 10pm. However, Lee did remain behind with his speaker enough that Richard could arrive and use it and Vocab could use it to rap.

The evangelicals did some caroling before they finally melted away into the night by in large, leaving behind a different sort of crew to help last until near midnight.

I just wanted to mention Richard! I recall him from previous years and I’ve been somewhat concerned as to why he hasn’t been around ever since I arrived back on Mill. He is the dark skinned man with the tattoos, bald head, and short-thick beard and mustache that frame his mouth. He also has a strong voice and a ready clever intellect that he uses to respond to people asking questions.

He took the microphone and spoke with Kazz, Rachel, and Todd.

A point that I would like to make for Todd and others, that Omar brought up, is that it’s important not to be confrontational with people. At one point during the night Todd was starting to use a couple direct points against Richard or some other evangelical in a somewhat harsh manner. In some cases harshness may be required; but it’s probably not the best place to start.

After Omar asked people not to be confrontational, of course, Todd was kind enough to back off and let Omar take over the discussion.

Allie and Omar

For part of the night Omar got into a discussion with a woman named Allie. Obviously inebriated, Allie took directly to speaking about love for other people and one of the Christian gods, Jesus. She wore a blue blouse beneath a white vest fringed with fur and blue jeans. After she got the microphone the first thing that happened was a descent into complete rabble-rabble.

And I mean loud yelling all around. The noise level went through the roof and she started shouting—almost crying—and quickly the roar became almost unbearable. It didn’t take too long for things to calm down again and Omar and Allie got to speak to each other without too much white noise.

Some choice quotes came from their discussion.

“I love you,” says Allie.

“I love you too, just without Jesus,” Omar says. “My disbelief in Jesus does not change my love for you; just as your belief in Jesus doesn’t change your love for me. We do not need this belief for love.”

Allie and her husband apparently were visiting from Texas; this was their first foray to Phoenix and Tempe, and thus also Mill Avenue. So we all tried to welcome the pair to Mill Ave. Thus including Allie and her three margaritas.

Vince and Trevor

Just a little introduction to Vince, again. When I was originally out on Mill long ago his street name was (and still is) “Preacher Man.” Vince is well known for his Christian and Biblical views and he is very good at controlling mirrorspeech in other people and knows how to turn a person away from attempting to roll over him in conversations. He’s quite good at controlling conversations.

One of the problems with conversing with some of the Mill Ave evangelicals is tactics that take advantage of too demure or polite people who are not willing to confront being talked over or being dismissed out of hand. Vince doesn’t let this happen.

When Trevor got into a talk with Vince, however, it didn’t last long. As Vince had the speaker at the time and Trevor did not. Both of them Christian they had a strange conversation involving interpretations and thoughts on their various schisms. Trevor, we learn, is apparently Pentecostal; and Vince decided to bring up what the different types of Pentecostals are. To list the full taxonomy of all Christian schisms could take forever, I’ve discovered, which is why I don’t have time to identify the dogmatic and doctrinal difference between all of them.

Their conversation eventually ended when Trevor told Vince that he could give up the microphone. Which Vince didn’t so Trevor walked away.

Expelled

I think that I need to make a comment about this movie. For some reason, Ben Stein felt the need to insult Frankenstein in his ignorant screed against Evolutionary Biology in another gigantic misunderstanding and bad attempt to strawman the facts for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

What is Answers in Genesis and why is it actually a bad thing?

During the night, Sean was talking to a few passersby before the 10pm turned-into-pumpkin event. The two young men I didn’t get their names but they quickly wore thin talking to Sean because he couldn’t give them anything that corroborated any of his claims. So he offered them some pamphlets, which they accepted and at the end of it he told them to visit Answers in Genesis dot com.

AIG is a website promoting Creationism and it spends a bit of its time therefore attacking the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection mostly by way of bad science, outright falsehoods, and general rhetorical trickery.

I would like to direct everyone to http://talkorigins.org/ where many of the profoundly wrong information promoted by Answers in Genesis are refuted with factual, evidence based, and cited. Anyone who visits AIG will discover a number of claims, most of which are uncited and unsupported, the critters that run TalkOrigins have done a lot of research and time into citing and refuting a lot of the claims made my Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

AIG is just a bald faced front for Creationism and pedantic religiously motivated political propaganda.

If you are looking for resources specifically aimed at cultural criticism of Intelligent Design, TalkOrigins has a sister site http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/.

Remember: all of these criticisms come with numerous citations, factual examination, philosophy, and cultural dialogues. Be willing to actually examine things, you’ll probably find a lot of enlightenment looking at what humanity knows about the natural, manifest world. Creationism and Intelligent Design try hard to play in the manifest, naturalistic stage while trying to add the supernatural and unfalsifiable non-hypothesises as if they are meaningful in a respectful discussion.

Answers In Genesis doesn’t seek to have a dialogue, they seek to make uncited and uncitable assertions about how humanity understands the Universe. Take a class in college on propaganda and political rhetoric and the behavior of AIG becomes extremely clear—it’s just a front for political ideas and not at all for an empirical, evidence based examination of the Universe. It doesn’t present any hypothesis; it has no models; and it certainly doesn’t have any scientific theories with which to enlighten anyone.

http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/taxonomy_menu/2/7

Most people are actually pretty smart; they just don’t have enough time in their days to be up on everything that everyone should. There’s always these reports running around talking about how ignorant Americans are of many things. Acting like being able to recite all of the seven dwarves but they cannot name all the justices who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. We should be fair to them: the average American doesn’t have time to educate themselves about the fundamentals of the theory of evolution any more than they do about the theory of gravity.

It may be helpful to send people to see the criticism of websites like AIG whose behavior is easily highlighted by only a few key phrases and articles. While the people who run sites like AIG spread propaganda, sound bites, and political rhetoric—the only good way to counter this is by promoting critical examination of the facts, and there are so many when empirical analysis comes into play.

The Universe is empirical. It is manifest. Anyone who has ever stuck their hand into a fire or touched a hot burner knows how tests and certainty work.

Let’s not allow politically motivated religious propaganda and rhetoric stifle our continual advancement of the understanding of our own Universe.

God Thrown Under the Bus

In the wake of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s relentless billboard attacks on religion which have erupted across the United States, the British Humanist Association in association with The Abhorrent Atheist Advocate Richard Dawkins are said to be plotting an attack on God himself using the city busses of London.

If you visit London, you would be well advised to avoid riding the busses. God has surely lifted his protection from the treacherous London bus system, as He will from those of Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh if the campaign is in fact extended to those cities.


According to “Professor” Dawkins (who graduated from and teaches at Godless Oxford rather than a respectable Christian University), “Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.

“Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

“Thinking is anathema to religion!?” I am going to pray for the good Lord to help me understand what that means, but I don’t think it glorifies God, so it’s wrong.

If our busses and advertising banners can be twisted to such ignoble ends, then perhaps it’s time we did away with all of them. Remember, as Stephen Green of Christian Voice said of this despicable campaign, “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.”