Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, March 28th 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, March 28th 2009.

Once again, Mill Ave is shut down due to the visitation of the Tempe Art Fair. White tents take up the center of the road, leaving the street open to all comers and passersby. The Resistance was sparse today but thick enough to entertain themselves on the preachers who came out to do some speaking. As usual, they found them set up in the middle of the intersection at 5th and Mill Ave—the diagonal between Urban Outfitters, Coffee Plantation, Hippie Gypsy, and American Apparel.

The Resistance consisted of Rocco and Gadfly, with a visitation by Kazz and Spyral.

Amazingly, the old-school core components of the Way of the Master evangelical group made it out! The preacher crew turned out to be Al, Jeremiah, Richard, and one other new individual of unknown disposition. This created an unexpected reunion of evangelical preachers who haven’t been out in a very long time. It’s been several months since either Richard or Jeremiah have been seen by the Resistance. Much to the amusement of all, Jeremiah took the stand later in the night and delivered his usual speeches—the rest didn’t really spend much time on their amps for the time people were out there to listen.

The notable event of the night didn’t involve the street preachers at all; although the night did end with Rocco and Gadfly with Jeremiah in front of the Brickyard.

It is reported that, earlier in the night, an itinerant busker took exception to one of Gadfly’s signs, set down his guitar, took it from her, tore it in half, and smacked her across the face with it. The sign in question was a rendering of the “BUTTSEX 4 JESUS” whiteboard-and-black-marker that originated at the protest against Brother Jed. He says that hitting her with the sign wasn’t intentional. This particular busker—an itinerant man, with a guitar, sporting a heavy, rounded dark beard of about an inch, usually sits between Hippy Cove and the Mill Avenue Jewelry store—has been on the Ave for possibly a little over a month. I haven’t gotten his name yet but I’ve spoken to him a few times about his guitar playing.

The evening wound down with Rocco preaching the gospel of the “Cookie-dough Dragon” at Jeremiah—and he even threw in some of his own criticism of contemporary Christian mythology and doctrine based on interpretations of their holy text, the Bible. I will try to paraphrase Rocco’s claim as I understood it:

The argument seemed to revolve around a prophecy from the Old Testament of the Bible which included a mortal patrilineal lineage for their messiah deity, Jesus. An event that wouldn’t make sense if the virgin birth also occurred, because therefore mortal Jesus would have no mortal father and therefore no possible patrilineal line to speak of.

FURTHER RESOURCES

  1. Gadfly herself has a narrative about what happened the night of Saturday, March 28th on her blog that I invite everyone to check out.

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.

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.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 3rd 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 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, January 3rd 2009.

The night opened out with a blaze of heavy, shrill sound as Shawn3 (whom everyone met at the Art Walk the previous night) took up on a megaphone of some mighty caliber. The decibel range of the amplification was in fact so intense that it felt louder than a rock concert. Conversations were drown out, and I have a feeling that it would have competed with the blues/jazz singer who plays down the street.

The Resistance still managed to converse somewhat even with the extreme decibels but either didn’t have the same power of amplification or chose not to increase theirs to match. At least one person pointed out that not only did Shawn3 have an extremely overloud megaphone but he was shouting into it.

Tonight he was wearing wire-rim spectacles, giving him a particularly aristocratic look.

The extreme volume did attract some attention. Aside from causing numerous passersby to wince or walk on quicker than before a small picket of mounted police arrived to pause and watch. The tree cavaliers arrived at about 9:20pm, pointing their horses perpendicular to the sidewalk. Shortly after their arrival, Shawn3 stepped down and quit his preaching and position.

Minutes of hush came down over the entire area which had moments before been readily described as the “loudest corner on Mill Ave.”

Kazz took up his speaker and apologized that his sign was no longer quite applicable. The whiteboard that the Resistance use to deliver written messages had the words:

Obnoxious liar
Free all night
<–

At this point Jim Coleman took the mike to talk about anti-Evolution premises, mainly the “Saltiness of the Ocean” and “Recession of the Moon” arguments.

Kazz tried to keep off of the mike for most of the night because he had a rather bad sore throat. However, in spite of this, he did try to speak when he could; but as a result of this a lot of other people were taking to the microphone as well. Todd, Mike, and Vince all took turns on the microphone at different times of the night.

In particular, Vince had some fun talking to both Kazz and Todd—and through parts of the night he talked to Al on the evangelical mike. It’s always fun listening to Vince talk; he’s a Big Fish style raconteur, which means that he’s bloody good at holding an audience and producing an entertaining story. His main failings, however, are the same as any big fish storyteller, he makes a lot of exotic and wild claims that either cannot be substantiated or lack compelling evidence. He is also well versed in various Christian doctrines and some of their holy texts so he tends to bring them out when speaking.

A couple interviews with the Resistance shows that they like talking to him because unlike others he’s actually polite and conversational.

As the night’s candle burned on a well-dressed Southern Gentleman who reminded me a lot of the Mark Twain look wandered over and serenaded everyone. His name, he told me, is Pard. A poet by trade, but not a bad singer/songwriter a cappella.

Todd and others also had a chance to talk to two women who appeared to have come along with Shawn3 (not fully substantiated, but it seemed to be the case.) They are another nomadic evangelical group who live out of an RV, come down from Syracuse, New York. The one in particular that Todd spoke too wore a blue and white outfit consisting of an extremely plain-and-simple skirt, blouse, and sweater affair, and they tried to talk about the belief-vs-model misunderstanding of science in the context of evolution.

By in large the discussion wound around through some difficulties of jargon, some gross misunderstandings of what rational thought is, what a model is vs. a belief, and other transference problems that are common with people who attempt to apply supernatural logic to observations of the natural world. At one point, as funny as it is, the young lady said that no scientist had said something in particular—so Todd called Ben, a friend who is an evolutionary biologist, and had him tell her.

Mostly this had to do with some jargon misunderstandings about the scientific use of the words “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Especially in the context of the Theory/Fact/Law of Evolution. Although there is a certain appeal in the scientific community about the use of the jargon “law” to refer to observed facts and phenomena, generally people will say “fact” instead of “law” nowadays. All phenomena are split up into the facts of their evidence, the theories that explain them, and in some cases the laws that appear to govern their operation (which are actually phenomenological facts, just described in a way that gives them structure, e.g. the Speed of Light, Thermodynamics, Motion, etc.)

This poses a problem to lay people because the lay meaning of “theory” really means “supposition” and sometimes it means the same thing as “hypothesis;” and “law” generally refers to government and civil law. As a result weird miscommunication and silly misunderstandings happen when people discuss these things and often the misunderstanding party simply goes away further confused or wrongly certain.

I am singularly amused that Ben got called.

More than one person approached me to ask if I knew Omar Call—a sometime visitor to Mill Ave who also involves himself in protesting the street preachers. One in particular wanted him to know that he had, “Inspired me to be more open about my atheism and I’m glad there are people out there like him.” And another—Keith, a Mick Jagger lookalike with a leather cap, and a black guitar—wanted to speak with him about his hallucinogenic revelations and walks with Jesus, to discuss the mysteries of religion with him as a believer and an atheist. By in large all the messages to Omar about the article have been positive.

Although, I say this wondering if people would actually approach someone on the street with a negative message and expect it to be delivered.