Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, April 4th 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.

The lit cross is visible again on ‘A’ Mountain, most likely due to the upcoming Christian holiday of Easter (the vernal equinox, and thus Ostara has already past.) It was visible around the same time last year as well. A decoration that counts probably about sixteen feet in height, made of a series of round-white lights fashioned in a cruciform. The holiday will occur this upcoming weekend on April 12th.

Also creating a different atmosphere on the Ave happened to be the Tempe Music Festival.

At around 9:30pm some of the Way of the Master evangelicals were congregating around Mill’s End café talking to Korky and Cindy; when suddenly they scattered upon some unknown signal. Totally disappearing from where they were previously crowded handing out pamphlets. A mere minute later, Gadfly and Kazz arrived from across the street. The evangelical group had Al, Suzanne, Richard, and a few others—most of whom did not reappear that night.

Omar set up in front of Urban Outfitters for most of the night and used the amplification system of the Resistance to talk to passersby; he also had one of his new signs that reads, “EVOLVE LOVE.” There, a few of the Resistance stopped to talk to random components of the WoTM evangelicals—like Richard, who got himself caught in a long discussion with Strawberry Joe, a street rat who’s been around Mill for a two years or so.

Evidence shows that Jonathan’s group were possibly out earlier in the afternoon and night at the Tempe Music Festival. However, they were not in that position later on in the evening nearing 11pm.

The cap on the entire night was the arrival, once again, of Jeremiah who took advantage of the groups moving between the Tempe Music Festival and Mill Ave proper. As soon as he appeared the Resistance moved to siege him as they usually do—primarily out of a desire to see him because he’s well known, partially out of sheer entertainment.

The encounter with Jeremiah went predictably. Between arguing points out of Christian mythology and doctrine from their holy book he vacillated between poorly supported and ignorant positions on scientific issues like the Theory of Evolution and Global Warming. Parroting unknown propaganda that wasn’t taken well by the Resistance. Rocco, Joe, Gadfly, and Kazz took their measure of him as he tried to talk to passing crowds on these various subjects—Joe coined a speech out of his refutations: “Jeremiah, why don’t I just record the proper responses to these things that you have to say so that they can just be played back when you say the same thing without having researched it…I wouldn’t even have to be here to prove you wrong.”

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, April 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 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.

Art Walk had a showing of the Way of the Master evangelicals on their usual spot at the Roosevelt triangle. Some people who haven’t been seen in a while joined Al and Edwin, mostly in the forms of Erin and Richard. The Resistance arrived with a great deal of people and set up amidst them sometime around 7:30pm—Todd, Rachel, Gadfly, Rocco, Kazz, among others.

The other groups lacked this time, nobody set up across the street in the opposite corner as sometimes happened in the past.

Art Walk pulled down a pretty fair number of people this round, sending them past that corner at a decent rate, possibly nearing fifty to sixty people or more a minute. The evangelicals had two separate amplification systems set at opposite sides of the corners and quite a few pamphleteers of varying stripe.

Discussions and argument this night weren’t well observed, but it appeared that Rocco spent a lot of his time managing one side with Kazz on the other.

Small knots of evangelicals from different groups were spotted out amid the Art Walk itself near Conspire and other regions, such as Trevor, and eventually Vocab’s group near night’s end.

The Phoenix Anonymous kept the Scientologists company across the street with their protest against the Scientology Corporation displaying glowing signs that read “CULT” and the Church of Scientology Corporation held their usual personality test tables upside their building—no tent set up today. As the Resistance don’t really connect themselves with the Phoenix Anonymous nor do they take notice of the Scientology protests little mingling happened there.

Rumors were that there was another group of preachers somewhere on Art Walk but they could not be found.

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.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, March 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.

The Resistance left meetings at ASU taking cars and light rail up to the First Friday Art Walk, arriving in parts around 7:30pm and found an noticeable crowd attending the various parts of our favorite artists’ faire. They set up in their usual spot in the triangular easement between the split of 3rd at Roosevelt. Joining the Resistance again with Kazz also was Spyral who spent most of her time next to the Resistance speaker on Roosevelt.

The Way of the Master preachers set up on the same corner and also across the street closer to 4th and Roosevelt. In attendance we had Valerie, Al, Lee, John, Edwin, among other notable faces. Passing out tracts and using their amplification. Both the position on the triangle and across the street used amplification; and later into the night two positions were set up on the triangle on opposite when Edwin came from across the street to the triangle.

Omar spent most of the night talking to John2 from Streetfishing. He is the large male with a heavy face and loud voice who generally sets up on the opposite side of 4th and Roosevelt. He also brings two young girls with him ages ranging possibly between 8 and 10 years old, who he uses as an excuse to tell people to “Watch their language,” and also uses to pass out tracts. The girls are polite and quiet, clean up after themselves and attempt to avoid people littering tracts by simply dropping them on the ground—it’s not uncommon to see them darting out from where they’ve huddled near John2 to hand one out.

During Omar’s stay John2 switched out once or twice with another preacher. They compose themselves of a behavior where they totally ignore Omar and other passersby who he offers his amplification to. No actual conversations happen. They spend a lot of time claiming the attention of members of the general public and then make broad claims about respecting them when others who are in the cone of the amplification want to also ask and answer questions.

At one point Omar began playing EBM music in between his questions and John2 approached him.

“I appreciate the discourse,” John2 said to Omar, “but the music is beneath you.”

“We don’t really have a discourse, though, you just ignore me the entire time,” Omar replied.

And there certainly was none the entire time that I observed.

Amid those who took up Omar’s offer of amplification—he would switch to his megaphone—were a few young ladies, a passing man, and Nicky, a bespectacled, outspoken young woman who had joined him last First Friday when speaking to John3. As always, the Streetfishing preachers spent most of their time totally ignoring them, using mirror-speech, and expectedly ordinary rhetoric on anyone who stopped to talk to them. Ignoring Omar and Nicky also managed to produce something of a cacophony on that corner very similar to what happened to the WoTM preachers on Mill when they wouldn’t reply to the Resistance early on.

The crew from Rocky Horror Picture Show passing out pamphlets also came to visit the WoTM preachers on the triangle at 3rd and became embroiled in some sort of strange siege, with black fishnets, lace, and eyeliner—oh and golden underwear (as per an overweight Rocky with a friendly face and red fliers for all.) After a small discussion they dispersed, took over the corner there, and handed out their fliers by pronouncing ecumenical acceptance of everyone using talking points counter to common Christian fundamentalist rhetoric. “At RHPS we accept you even if you’re gay! We don’t care. Bi? Come with us! Boy. Girl. Whatever. RHPS is the place for you.” Their position and the verbiage certainly increased the number of people who took pamphlets from them.

The WoTM and Streetfishing preachers finally left the area around 10pm—slowly filtering out as that witching our rolled around.

The night wound down with a few groups of Christians stopping to talk to Issac, Rocco, and Kazz. At last one of them had an alpha who promised to pray for Kazz, and another promised to pray for Omar. To which he stated that it wouldn’t have any effect, she said she was going to pray anyway.

During one encounter, Spyral stood by handing out various tracts as Kazz was speaking as the conversation necessarily wended between common points from the Nephilim. When Spy attempted to give one of the atheist tracts to one of that group she was roundly refused.

“Why won’t you take it?” Spyral asked.

“Would you take a tract from me?”

“Yes.”

“Why would you take one if you don’t believe in God?”

This went around a few times where Spyral pointed out—like I would—that we do actually read all of the material we take. That, in fact, taking a tract is precisely like giving someone else time to speak to us, time to listen to their words. It is extremely common that tract bearers will refuse literature from us after we accept it from them; it is also common for them to not want to listen to us while at the same time proselytizing. This group managed to both listen and speak, but that fell down when it came to exchanging tracts.

One of the members of the group mentioned that this was her first time at First Friday but she had not been able to take any time to enjoy the booths and artists because she had come out to hand out tracts. Notably, a similar thing happened to Spyral because she kept to the Resistance speaker and didn’t manage to spend time around the various artists and music.

Hopefully next time both can have a much better experience by being able to be part of the celebratory atmosphere, the art, and the glimmering amazement that is the Art Walk.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, February 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.

The Resistance appeared on Mill Ave at about 8pm. Almost every corner had been taken up with various entertainers, people doing Mill Ave work, and other functions. The first encounter that members of the Resistance had with anything related to their mission was an offhand conversation about Christian convictions between some common folk mingling.

Eventually, Al, Jim Coleman, and Valerie set up in front of the Post Office and were immediately met by Kazz and other members of the Resistance. Although, they were quickly siphoned away to a set up that Omar had taken at Urban Outfitters which became more of the Resistance corner than anything else—no preachers countered them at all.

Edwin wandered past during the night commenting that he and others had gone to check out the light rail.

“Do you ladies believe in goodness?”

It was one of the WoTM preachers speaking out to a group of down-dressed young women who sauntered past, chuckling in alcoholic glow. The reply, however, came from a small cluster of young men. “No!” they shouted past, and burst into a fit of laughter.

“These guys don’t believe in goodness,” the preacher said. “Very dangerous guys.”

Dangerous to themselves at least, as they immediately crossed the street against the light without looking.

The only other noteworthy event was when Strawberry Joe had a conversation with Valerie about religious convictions. Earlier that night he professed to me that he had changed his mind about diesm, and talked about his stroke experience. He had a cerebral event and knew that he was dead. This probably was what he talked to Valerie about, but it’s difficult to get him to form coherent sentences sometimes so I doubt that conversation went anywhere with a rapidity.

Beyond that, the night was singularly boring, it had little going on, few people stopped to talk to the WoTM preachers—but lots did stop to talk to the Resistance group and Omar in front of Urban Outfitters with his “GODLESS 4 GOODNESS” sign. Rocco spent a bit of the night using his newly bought megaphone to heckle Al at the Post Office, but eventually he must have grown bored of that as well as nobody paid much attention to them.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, February 21st 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.

Today saw an increase in the total activity of drama and exposure of evangelical preachers on Mill Ave that hasn’t been seen before. Some old people have returned, and some new people have made themselves noticeable. And there were some major disruptions caused by their presence because of friction with local businesses.

The night opened up with Brant and his blonde companion camped out at the Post Office without amplification, holding a sign talking to passersby; Jeremiah, Al, and other Way of the Master evangelical preachers set up in front of Borders; and Jonathan—around whom the most major drama erupted—decided to set up in an unorthodox place: at 6th and Mill Ave in front of the Hippie Gypsy. This is probably because there is little room kitty-corner from the Hippie Gypsy, Bruce the spray-paint artist had taken the Urban Outfitters corner, and Coffee Plantation security is well known for harassing people who set up there.

The Resistance split themselves between the Hippie Gypsy corner and the Borders corner for the first part of the evening after members heard that Jeremiah had returned to the Ave. He is well known and spoken of among them because of his particular unchanging preaching style, defiance against changing his show to match current fact, and his interestingly abrasive speaking style which include known insulting falsehoods, and now quickly irrelevant non-facts presented as truth. “I don’t believe in atheists,” said Jerimiah. “If you say that you’re an atheist or an agnostic, I don’t believe in you.” In spite of his infamy drawing Resistance members that direction the real action seemed to keep itself at 6th and eventually everyone focused on those corners.

Along with Jonathan came a couple other speakers including a man named Phil who wore a tweed snapped-peak cap. When they set up with their loudspeaker it drew the attention of a Bun Devils hotdog stand worker—a tall black man, with very short, thick black hair, and a red “Bun Devils” t-shirt—and the owner James. Together they repeatedly complained at Jonathan and Phil about their speaker, at the crowd themselves to go away, claiming that the people with amplification had no right to be there several times; repeating that they were driving away business, that they were losing money.

James set off the car alarm of his large SUV parked right next to the corner (and his store) at about 9:34p.m. and was finally deactivated thirteen minutes later when three police officers on bikes showed up and waved James over. His discussion with them apparently did not favor his desire to remove the preachers, the Resistance, and the crowd from the corner, however, because they didn’t stay to talk about it.

Some exchanges with Jonathan became rather funny because the worker from the hotdog stand would come over and engage him in attempted conversation. Often, to which Jonathan would interject into his preaching that people should go buy hotdogs, but he also spoke some about the car alarm going off—“We are here today. We’re Christians. I don’t want to yell, but there’s a lot of noise.”

“I want you to buy something,” the black worker said.

“I have no money,” replied Jonathan, rubbing at his pockets with a shrug.

“Then go somewhere else!”

At another point, James went out and waved twenty-dollar bills at Averroes and Phil while they argued on the corner complaining that he’d give them money if they would only go away. At this point it was because both of them were using amplification and he just wanted them to change corners.

“I don’t want to hear them fussing,” James said. “That’s why I left my home and came out here tonight—because I don’t want to hear my wife and kids fuss, now you guys are making me sick to my stomach.”

At one point one man, looking for a fight or drunk, knocked Kazz’s “THINK FOR YOURSELF” sign out of his hands.

Hippie Gypsy increased the volume of the music that they play from their overhang, possibly in their own passive-aggressive gesture to show the crowd/preachers that they didn’t want them there.

Finally near 10 p.m. the preachers decide to take their show across the street in front of Coffee Plantation. Security there manage to not harass the set up there. Kazz even went to his vehicle and got his amplification (which had not made a debut yet.) About then another group of evangelical preachers appeared and began using the amplification that appeared to be similar to, if not actually, Jonathan’s amp—although he wasn’t seen again, but Phil was still around.

One of the new group said something about “Campus Ministry” who were visiting. Amid them a few names that were picked up by members of the Resistance were Shannon, a visiting scholar who was introduced as someone who “liked to argue with skeptics,” and happened to spend time talking to Joe; and Scotty B. who started out the night by talking to Kazz, trying to hold conversations with superfluous equivocation discussions about the “laws of logic” even though that’s not what he meant (he listed off a number of logical fallacies and rhetorical rules, but it was difficult to understand what he was getting at.)

Rocco and Joe managed the floor with the new group of preachers for most of the night. Rocco spending most of his time attempting to explain how claiming that something is “outside of logic” is akin to being able to make no claim about it at all because the very foundations of logic (truth values, for example) could not be applied to it rendering any substantive discussion of it utterly moot. Joe talked to Shannon for a while, rolling around logical arguments including the “omnipotence and omniscience” together form a contradiction in terms. Including certain other direct problems with special pleading for the supernatural.

Jonathan vanished sometime near 11p.m.

The new preacher groups left Mill Ave at about midnight.

Overall a few interviews were had with various elements, but it was difficult to formally report on individual events. Since tonight was particularly scattered, members of the Resistance and others in the public are encouraged (moreso than usual, if we may) to reply to this post and add to the knowledge of the experience.

Brother Jed Resistance Reports: Friday, February 20th 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.

Brother Jed is an increasingly irrelevant campus evangelical prostylizer and he visited ASU campus today. The Mill Avenue Resistance and the ASU Secular Free Thought Society went out to meet him—they didn’t have to go far. The SFTS have a tent and table set up on the main mall in front of the Memorial Union where Jed preaches so they only had to venture out from their shade to see him.

And he didn’t impress.

Fridays on ASU campus have a weaker contingent of students who are finishing up their last classes for the week and are looking forward to the weekend. They really weren’t biting. Between Brother Jed and Sister Pat’s inflammatory and rude speeches (claiming girls are whores, and boys are rapists) they failed to hook anyone and only faced the SFTS the entire time.

Even the klaxon yells of, “Pervert alert! Pervert alert! Girls close your legs, it’s a fraternity boy!” didn’t garner much of any response from any passerby.

Slow to start up, Jed and Pat were equally slow going, and eventually petered out entirely around lunchtime.

I stopped and talked to him a little while. Where he showed a certain amount of ignorance of my dress aesthetic—which I don’t entirely blame him for, he is a Christian evangelical preacher, and would not fit in on the floor of a Goth dance club. Claimed that I was limiting my influence by dressing the way that I do; although, I attempted to explain that I’m dressed like this for show. He then noticed my nametag that states that I’m an Anthropologist and said, “So you study anthropology. That’s the study of man. Tell me: what is the purpose of man?”

“If my badge said that I was a geologist, would you have actually asked me, ‘What is the purpose of rocks?’”

I knew what I was getting into when I started talking to him. Really, I want to talk to the person not to their religion, but an evangelical Christian out on a campus talking to anyone is essentially working. They’re not being themselves—they’re being their job, and that job is to sell their religion. However, Jed did talk about some real world things in between his farcical carnival act gestures and religious gesticulations.

During our little discussion, over which I did more listening than actual talking but I’m not sure that I can bridge the generation gap between Jed and I, he decided that I was a good candidate to read his book. So, now I have a copy of it. Which he claims is going out of print. I did promise to read it, so I will certainly attempt to do so. After I am done, I am donating it to the SFTS so that they can put it into their library.

After I disentangled myself from him, he took his chair and sat amidst the SFTS and talked to people there. I will have to interview the various members of the group to find out what exactly they talked about because I spent more time instructing other ASU students.

The STFS had a massive turn out of worthwhile people including Kevin, Max (the Jewish guy from last year), Brian, Cale, Kyle, Kazz, Todd – I am probably missing some but people were out in force.

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.



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.