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.

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 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 17th 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 17th 2009 (when it goes up.)

When the Resistance arrived there were a few preachers set up at the P.O including Al, the Way of the Master preachers, and Shawn3. With him Shawn3 had brought a large black sign with big print white letters proclaiming “Evolution is a lie.” He quickly ditched that location and went down to Urban Outfitters. Leaving Al and that crew behind at the PO. The Resistance largely ignored them for Shawn3’s crew.

Shawn3 at Urban Outfitters had a larger group with him made up of two new preachers, and three small children aged from possibly seven years old to ten, and also William the late gradeschooler was also there with a high end amateur DSLR camera. New people in Shawn3’s group I’m told were brothers of his. The first guy had short brown hair, a scruffy badly kempt beard, blue and yellow single-stripe shirt like a sports outfit. His mirror speech consisted of ignoring all comers, and pretty much only circled around to shouting, “Put your faith in Christ,” and nothing new or original. The other had long brown hair, a visible moustache with a much better cultivated chin and lip beard.

Signs visible:

STOP SINNING
And
TRUST JESUS

Also:

EVOLUTION IS A LIE
SalvationJunction.com

Urban Outfitters started the night with their doors wide open, taking in public visitors to and fro—but shortly after 9pm when Shawn3’s group started preaching, they closed them without a word. Shawn3 has become well known for abusively loud preaching on his megaphone at decibels that exceed anything respectful of the street itself and not only is his megaphone extremely loud, he shouts into it with the full brassado of his vocal ability.

At one point close to 9:20pm the Resistance lent their speaker to a Christian passerby who didn’t like what he was hearing, he quickly took to the amplification to tell one of Shawn3’s brothers that he was committing a sin of pride. Another Christian, Vince, also took up the speaker for more than half the night in attempts to talk to Shawn3‘s crowd who roundly ignored him, rebuffing him and everyone else with their repugnantly overloud preaching.

At around 9:45 Shawn3 and his insanely loud megaphone use went back to work again. Damaging people’s hearing and generally abusing the public trust with the decibels of his preaching and spent about four minutes shouting over seven times: “Read your Bible!” All in a row.

Over at the Post Office I met a young black man named Dre who is one of Vocab’s friends and apparently part of that crew—I don’t know if he raps also, I should have asked, it seems like most of them are good at it. He says that he came to Christianity about two and a half years ago and only very recently started coming out to Mill Ave. He wore thick rimmed spectacles and a cap, held a polite voice and vaguely South Western diction. A bit of obvious mirror speech, but unlike others he didn’t regard my questions as disruptions and actually held a discussion with me; amid he mostly just encouraged me to not let the Bible “be just another book in my repertoire.” But admitted that while he normally doesn’t like to appeal to emotion that sometimes he is concerned about other people going to Hell. Probably a good position for him to have because most other cultures who are not Christian see the use of the mention of Hell as a coercion by threat and find it extremely insulting and disrespectful.

Omar arrived on the Ave around 9:30pm or earlier before I returned to Urban Outfitters and potential cochlear damage from Shawn3’s abusively loud preaching. He had with him his new sign reading, “GODLESS 4 GOODNESS” stenciled in white on black.

At about 10pm, Shawn3 and his crew start to break apart, flip around their sign, and simply fold into themselves. During the entire time that they were set up Papa Soul didn’t play a single chord; he set up sometime between 8 and 9pm and stayed pretty much to himself until the preachers cut down and left.

Al remained at the PO with the other Way of the Master preachers and were pretty much ignored by the Resistance for the entire night.

All the way until midnight the Resistance kept shop in front of Urban Outfitters. There was no use of amplification except earlier by the preachers. After they left an actual worthwhile-for-existence sound level settled and a lot of small contestations were to be had. I spent some time speaking with John and a blonde woman with spectacles whose name now escapes me.

Kazz and Omar remained as the only components of the protest venue and both spoke with individual people. Kazz with Emilio and Omar with two individuals I did not recognize.

The night dwindled from there.

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.