Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, March 13th 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.

Tonight the Resistance found Jonathan’s crew, including Phil Washer, milling around the corner of 6th and Mill Avenue at Hippie Gypsy. Later into the night Jim Coleman came out as well as Vocab Malone and his group—who were a lot more amiable and easy to speak with than Jonathan’s group.

The group with Jonathan brought with them one of the loudest amps that anyone has yet brought, almost as loud as Shawn Holes and Jeff Rose (if not in the same ballpark.) The cone-of-sound manages to compete with the louder buskers on Mill Ave. Accusations of its misuse have been mentioned as well including last Friday someone holding it against Rocco’s ear, and this weekend—directly witnessed—having it pointed directly into Omar’s face. The outcome of pointing it at Omar created a nearly 90 second feedback fencing match.

This activity is becoming more unacceptable as Jonathan, and his group, has moved from simply ignoring respondents to being part of assaults. They are failing fundamental civil responsibility by acting as bad neighbors to the Ave, causing injury, breaking the commons, and not engaging in actual discourse with the community. They should really clean up their act.

Jonathan appears to have modified his behavior to mollify would-be anger by other street practitioners who are out there to do their thing and make money by offering pale conciliatory gestures in his deafening speeches: “Buy some hotdogs, they’re $3, and they’re excellent,” and “Check out these paintings over here, some of them are $6 and they’re wonderful paintings.” This probably emanated from an earlier experience when James, owner of Bun Devils, became angry with Jonathan and his crew for stopping up the corner he sat at and thus caused fear that customers were being chased away.

A cameraman appears to have come along this time—well a camera at least—since multiple people carried the camera during the night. It was a large, heavy, shoulder-carried television camera with a huge fuzzy microphone.

Around 10:30pm the night really calmed down as the amplification went away and the groups broke up into smaller discussions.

I spoke for a while with Michael who came out to support his “Brothers in Christ,” as they did their thing on Mill Ave. He couldn’t stay long—as he had to take the light rail—but seemed to be around with Jonathan and Phil’s group. Our conversation was short, but he had a fairly decent affect; although, it was difficult for me to hold a conversation because my ears were still ringing from the earlier extreme noise.

Rocco, Omar, Isaac, Jim, and Vocab managed a long winded, winding conversation about almost everything from the historicity of Jesus, linguistics, anthropological evidence for the origins of Christianity (from neat stuff like ancient manuscripts) and … even a weird little passage from the Book of Matthew about an indeterminate number of Jewish scholars coming back from the grave and returning to their lifetime posts and jobs.

Kazz met with a pair of young women who stopped to look at some of the signs. One tall and overweight, the other small and quiet; the more vocal of the two professed her Christianity while discussing some of the tracts with him. Although, the conversation got a little bit strange when she admitted that she didn’t believe in dinosaurs because the Bible doesn’t mention them—problematically, I don’t think the Bible mentions microbes either, but we demonstrably have those. The conversation did eventually digress and dissolve and they went on their way.

Also, another one of Kazz’s signs from the speaker has also been stolen. One of the “MURDERER / MISSING” posters that hangs on the sides of the Resistance speaker has been taken.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, February 7th 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, February 7th 2009.

The crowds were pretty sparse tonight. The evangelicals on Mill tonight consisted of a spotty showing from the Way of the Master preachers, Suzanne, her daughter, Al, and Edwin, as well as Jim Coleman. The Resistance brought their contingent with Kazz, Rocco, Joe, and a few others.

The night started at about 9pm, but most of the evangelicals left the Ave at about 9:30 directly leaving only Al. At nine a few were out in front of Urban Outfitters but they moved to the Post Office where Al had already been set up—through the night the Resistance followed Al from the P.O. to in front of Borders then back to the P.O. again.

Kazz recounts some discussions with passersby, one Christian in particular who decided to stop and argue but refused to substantiate his points, falling back on, “You don’t get to quote the Bible,” and “Since you’re not Christian you wouldn’t understand anyway. You can’t read the Bible, it’s like reading someone else’s mail.” This one is an amazingly xenophobic attitude, held mostly only by those who have been so enculted into their religion that they cannot possibly discourse with people outside of their peer group.

Several crowds formed in front of the P.O around the Resistance blockade set up involving discussions with Jim Coleman. He eventually also appeared out amidst the street rats at the drum circle.

The night eventually ended approaching midnight when Al left the Ave and the remainder of the Resistance dwindled from the red bricks.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, February 6th 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 Friday, February 6th 2009.

Note: A correction was made to the observation report for Saturday, January 24th 2009.

Just like last week, the Way of the Master preachers and a couple others additional to the group, split themselves across Roosevelt. They took up their mantel in the triangle of dirt lot at 3rd and Roosevelt, with Jim and Valerie, as usual with a Prayer Station—including a little cross and two candles reading, “Jesus”—and across the street there were Edwin, and a few others. The Resistance set up at the triangle with their speaker and Omar went across the street to talk to the other group.

There were also two other evangelical groups at the Art Walk. One of them happened to be Vocab Malone’s group further away, and a Christian Rock Band a short distance from Conspire.

The evangelicals across Roosevelt had a large man who brought his young daughter with him (7 or 8 years of age.) A behavior which many of the Resistance react with some disgust. This behavior does seem counter-normative to the mainstream culture, but a great deal of cultures do involve their extremely young children in rituals and activities of subcultures. It may not itself be counter-normative to the evangelical subculture because it is extremely often that small children appear with these groups. This behavior is however not blatantly counter normative to the outlying culture, otherwise it would have diminished away by now—it is well known that religious cultures are affected greatly morally by the cultures they are embedded within.

A blonde man with a moustache and beard had a long, frenetic talk with Omar across Roosevelt. And this is one of the things he said as he was starting to bow out,

“God bless you,” he gestured to the sign. “Godless for Goodness. I know, I know, we will see each other again.” He was referring to a previous statement about how in 30 years Omar would “come to his senses” and realize that this crazy blonde guy that he talked to on the street was right. To which Omar pressed him about believing that he was correct and therefore Omar would be wrong.

The conversation disintegrated quickly when the blonde man wasn’t willing to concede the plausibility of opinions on these matters and it descended mostly into Christian dogmatic mirror-speech.

The triangle side of Roosevelt saw Joe, Brian, Kazz, and others holding one-off conversations with the evangelicals. Including more notably Valerie and Jim. Joe spent a lot of his time quoting from the Bible, talking about varied translations from Greek and Hebrew, and even wrote a variation of Epicurius’s Riddle on the ground in chalk. Including a phrase saying, “Defeating God for over two-thousand, five hundred years.” The riddle is the famous “then whence come evil?” question. Heated discussions were spotty, mostly one on one, some small crowds, but nothing altogether noteworthy.

The setup of the Resistance drew in quite a few interested people who took a look at signs, read them, and looked around wondering what it was about. However, without Kazz at the station for a long period of time, and others not really standing near it, they didn’t find anyone to talk to and eventually wandered away bemused. While many people were engaged during the beginning of the night, very few were even noticed later into the night.

The Prayer Station was broken down around 10pm and the entire force of evangelicals on Roosevelt left around 10:30pm. The evangelicals across the street left a little bit earlier. Melting into the crowds.

Kazz’s newest sign was taken and destroyed. A whiteboard that read, “Do you believe in God? Why?” and then listed statistics, logical fallacies, and other evidence that distinctly does not support the existence of the various incarnations of the evangelical god. Including starvation statistics, amid other elements. The vandals managed to grab the sign without notice, ripped it to shreds, tore the top askew, and left only one word on the entire sign:

“God?”

An interesting message if this was done by anyone from the Christian culture.

Overall crowds ran from thick and thin, people did stop to have discussions with Kazz and others, the evangelicals gathered crowds here and there, but mostly added to the First Friday backdrop in the same manner they did before. The sidewalks got chalked, a good time was had by many.



Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 24th, 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 24th 2009.

This night reared its ugly head at about 8pm with a surprising number of people on Mill Ave. The Resistance appeared at about that time and the new set of preachers were wandering about already—this being Jeff Rose and Vincent Piater, also Valerie and Jim of more familiar people.

Jeff says that he’s going to be here for another week or so before returning to his preaching circuit in the UK. Going on about how he normally preaches in Glasgow, and other places. Apparently he has quite a wide ministry, and it will be interesting to hear how the Scotts take him; I think I already have some ideas how the Irish would, if the sort of reactions he inspires on Mill are any indication.

Jeff does not present himself well. The way that he plays the crowd is in a manner deliberately like 3rd graders arguing, picking up clipped phrases from those talking to him and trying to turn them over and over in his hands; he also spends time demagoguing the audience with divisive speech, designed to rile and incite violent emotions. and It’s particularly disrespectful of his audience and the listeners and makes it obvious that he’s just out there for the spectacle and the theater.

He is a powerful and passionate speaker and when he’s actually replying to people and being part of conversations he sounds intelligent. However, when it comes to his act he descends into the disrespectful, delivering what he certainly knows to be misrepresentations of his debate opponents. He also spends a lot of time pretending friendship in the fashion of one who knows Machivelli well—“To stab someone in the back, one must first get behind them.” It is hard to believe that he actually considers himself “friends” when he spends a lot of his time belittling the Resistance, misrepresenting what they said in a juvenile fashion, or simply pandering to the crowd in a sleazy car salesman tone.

Perhaps both his charge of friendship and his preaching are both acts; it’s impossible to tell when a person behaves differently to what they say.

“Put your faith in Jesus Christ,” shouts Jeff.

“Put your faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” replies Kazz. “Put your faith in Zeus. Put your faith in Thor.” He points out that from the perspective of the atheist outsider any of these sound bites can be switched out with any other god.

Jeff consistently misunderstands or misrepresents what’s being said to him. He plays dishonest linguistic games with cuts of the oppositions speeches such as a parody reply about gravity:

“I don’t believe in gravity;” says Cale; “it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Noodly Appendage pushing me down to the ground.”

“Atheists don’t believe in gravity! So go jump off that building and you’ll fly!”

And then there’s simple, blatant nonsense:

“Do you believe in leprechauns?” Kazz asks.

“You don’t believe in God,” he replies, “so obviously you do believe in leprechauns!” And on and on.

It is obvious for some reason that Jeff inspires an atmosphere of threat and violence, possibly from his immature invective which is polarizing to the crowd. It seems to empower rude, uncivil behavior on those who listen; this generates shouting matches, and gives expectation to would be bullies and drawing animosity from many sides of the social gem. Several near-violent incidents happened while he preached.

When everyone was in front of Urban Outfitters a black youth wearing a safari-style hat kept sneaking around to his speaker, and yanked out his microphone cable. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him, but he seemed to claim that he wanted to test the Christian non-violence sympathies. This is certainly not a good behavior and only tends to create more potential violence, and in fact it did.

After his second successful attempt to yank the cable, Jim (the man with Valerie) said, “Try that again.” He folded his arms and gave a glare. “Try it again.”

Finally the whole thing came to a head. The third time the black youth went for the cord, Vincent jumped him and struck him hard in the chest, throwing him from his feet. The black youth hit the ground hard and slid, legs splayed. That set him into an angry attitude; he dropped his backpack, and stormed back posturing. He stood up against Vincent, threatening, and others had to get between them and talk over his angry words to diffuse the situation. Certainly it seemed like soon the police would have to be called.

Later, in front of the Post Office a small group of males appeared. All in their early 20s or late teens (college age) and displaying the jock or frat brother look. Broad bodies, square faces, t-shirts, jeans, while they looked fairly fit not a one was athletic or even muscular. One in particular, a young man wearing a blue t-shirt that read “AERO” bullied and threatened others who were speaking to Jeff. He repeatedly threatened Joe,

“You should really take that over there.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to knock you out.”

And he would tell other people things like, “Walk on Spiderman.” As if looking for a fight.

While a lot of this was going on, he and his four friends formed almost a line of scrimmage next to Jeff, and facing the Resistance. Folded arms, glaring, with the alpha male posturing, calling names, bullying, and generally threatening. While Jeff called people “perverts,” “garbage,” insulted their children, the alpha threatened to punch people, dismissed them, and attempted to intimidate anyone who spoke back to Jeff himself.

They eventually left, but not after calling Kazz a “freak.” Among other behavior that created a lot of animosity in the Resistance, especially Brian who spent a bit of time posturing himself (although not in the presence of the boys) about how he was actually a lot bigger than any of them and perfectly ready to rumble if they started anything.

Jeff’s preaching seems to be designed to create this sort of mistrust and strife in his audience. The Way of the Master preachers (with the exception of Jeremiah) generally do not produce this sort of violence and polarization, even with their rude and deliberately divisive speech. So it must be something in particular about Jeff’s message that is designed to exploit an in-group and out-group experience in his audience. In fact, yesterday he faced another instance of violence against him, reasons are unknown.

A man pulled a knife on him, grabbing his bullhorn cord. Then, after threatening to cut the cord, the man put the knife against his chest. According to Jim Coleman, police arrived quickly and arrested everyone—but they quickly released most, took the knife brandisher to jail. It is told that the knife was taken away, and the brandisher would spend a night or two in jail before being released.

It has become obvious that Jeff invites a lot of this behavior with the method of his preaching. He uses deliberately immature speech that panders to the drunken and bullies-at-heart, he has an ultra-loud amp which drowns out almost all replies, and he does nothing to dismiss or disarm building animosity in those who speak against him and especially not in those who are bullying those trying to converse with him. In short, he is using demagogue techniques in order to incite and rile the crowds that he gathers.

Because Jeff is going out of his way to create this divisive atmosphere, it is doubly more important that the members of the Resistance not fall into the maw of the spiraling violence. Try to remain calmer, don’t become angry at him or passersby who want to support him by either bullying or intimidating. Try to calm down passersby who are riled and irritated by his belligerent speech; he obviously does not care about what he’s doing because he doesn’t do these things or he’s oblivious to his incivility. So it falls on you to not allow things to escalate.

Good luck out there, and please continue to leave Mill a better place than when you arrived.

Editor’s Note 02-07-2008: There has been a correction to the above. Originally it read that Jim had been the one that jumped the black kid who was pulling the speaker cord. Valerie corrected this in pointing out that it was in fact Vincent. As this actually sounds more plausible than Jim, the change has been made.