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Posted on Aug 15, 2011 in arguments, local, responding to arguments | 14 comments

Dealing with Anti-Gay Protesters at NEPA Pridefest

Image Credit: silentwitnesspa.org

This weekend, members of the NEPA Freethought Society, a local community group of non-theists, attended NEPA Pridefest in order to show solidarity with the gay community, have fun, socialize, and most importantly engage the anti-gay protesters who were bound to show their faces. Instead of ignoring the protesters, like others do at these events, I felt it necessary to engage the protesters in order to mainly distract them from interfering with the event and the event-goers and quiet their voices. I find the tactic of engagement far more beneficial than ignoring. Despite this, we worked alongside with and respected the authority of the Silent Witness Peacekeepers at the event who escorted people into the event, maintained peace, and did not engage with the protesters.

Before NEPA Pridefest, I discovered that many anti-gay protesters attend these events in order to provoke people and file lawsuits if someone was violent toward the protesters. Before Pridefest, I attended an express orientation given by the Peacekeepers in order to learn what their role was, more about the protesters, and how to handle the protesters. One of the main parts of their code of conduct, though, was not to talk to the protesters, so I could not be a Peacekeeper at this event. Regardless, I respected the authority of the Peacekeepers at this event and worked side-by-side with them.

When the protesters — a group of teens and young children, a relatively quiet adult male, and two very vocal adult males with a sound system and some sort of horn — arrived, NEPA Freethought Society members observed them and asked the leader of the Peacekeepers if we could engage them, but we were told to wait and see what happens (and we respected that). The two vocal adult males with the sound system were saying all sorts