It’s Pride month, and you know what that means. Alongside the festivities, family, and friends of the LGBTQ community, there will be a slew of unwanted guests – from sign-holding religious bigots to potentially violent hate groups. How should we deal with these unwanted guests? And what should we do to stay safe at Pride events?
Many of these uninvited individuals are religious bigots holding up signs to get attention. I see them downtown all the time with provocative messages about the roles of women, how the end is nigh, etc. and I’m sure they’ll show up with their hate messages regarding the LGBTQ community this weekend. How do we deal with them?
Do we engage in conversation?
Stand in front of them decked out in rainbow attire and block their signs?
Take pictures with them and blast them all over the internet?
Personally, I ignore them. They show up at these events with their messages of hate because they want to get a reaction out of you. They want to make you mad. They want to crash the party. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them are actually hoping we lash out violently either for their opportunity to be martyrs for the faith or as an opportunity to file lawsuits against people who cause them harm. I don’t believe in violence, but many of my left-leaning counterparts feel there’s a time and a place for it. At what point is it okay to get violent with somebody else? My position is and always has been for the purpose of self-defense only.
I’m not bothered by the religious bigots or their message. As a former conservative Christian, I understand the pressure to conform to traditional expectations even when they’re unbiblical or fly in the face of modern-day science. Religious indoctrination runs deep and I see now point in trying to change their minds, especially at a Pride rally. There’s a lot of pressure to prove your love for God by putting yourself in awkward and compromising situations. It’s almost like a badge of honor to show how strong your faith is by showing up to an event full of people you disagree with in order to “spread the Gospel.” But we all know better. Nobody shows up to a Pride event with a sign about sin with the hopes of converting anybody to Christianity. Christ never asked anyone to do anything remotely like that. The message of Jesus has always been one of love, and if a person wants to “spread the Gospel,” love is the way to do it. Still the allure of martyrdom is strong amongst evangelicals. I say don’t give it to them. Don’t give them the satisfaction. But will they go away eventually if ignored long enough?
I read about some ingenious ways to deal with Westboro protests that could probably be used at other events. Angel Action, for instance, is an organization that constructs 10-foot-tall wings to be worn in front of the protesters and block their signs entirely. A similar method could include a wall of humanity to block out the hate. At one WBC event, protesters’ vehicles were vandalized leaving the hate group unable to travel which unraveled their plans. I’m not sure I’d recommend vandalism, but I don’t feel bad for anyone who gets their tires slashed when their only purpose is to bring a message of hate to an event they weren’t invited to. Some people take to mockery and posting images of the bigots online. I’m sure this would be effective if these people weren’t already shameless. My favorite suggestion is simply blocking the protesters from view. Standing in front of their signs to cancel out their message of hate. But what do we do when the bigotry is more than a nuisance, but a threat?
I heard a rumor that the Proud Boys are coming to my hometown. This far-right hate group is rooted in Trumpism and protests any and all leftist or progressive movements including feminism and equality. They can pose a legitimate threat and have been cited for political violence in the past. What if they show up to a rally? When can the police be called? Only if a weapon is brandished because that’s too late. According to advocate.com, they’re already targeting Pride events, and it’s important for people to watch for the signs of a potential threat. If you see something suspicious or someone acting in a threatening manner, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement. I don’t think it’s a good idea to take matters into one’s own hands. Hopefully, in time these hate groups will become a thing of the past, but we can’t pretend like they’re not a current threat. Here are some tips for staying safe at Pride events this year.
It’s important to remember that people have rights whether we agree with them or not. We can’t stop bigots from showing up to Pride rallies, but we can practice what we preach by abstaining from violence and showing that love triumphs over hate. I don’t know what the best way is to deal with the bigots or the potentially violent hate groups except to stay vigilant and not give in to the hate they want so badly to spread. How do you feel is the best way to address these issues? Please share them and stay safe this June!