Newton was the site of a protest that drew about 1,200 people, as estimated by police who were on hand to keep things calm. Of those, about 20 seemed to be "counter protesters," and I'll get to them in a bit. Newton is the county seat of Catawba County in North Carolina and usually is home to about 12,500 people. By the way, I daresay the restaurants were quite happy that a protest was being held on a holiday weekend.
So what were FryDaddy and I doing up that-a-way? Well, back on Mother's Day, the head of a little Baptist church in nearby Maiden said some pretty awful and hateful things from the pulpit about putting American citizens behind electrified fences and letting them die off. (Oh, but he offered to have some food flown in. Compassionate feller.) I'm not posting a link here - search out hate on your own time, please - but it's easily findable. That was part of the problem. Even though the church took the sermon down off its (currently crashed) Website, with YouTube, stupid lives on forever. (Look for footage from today coming soon!)
So thanks to one intrepid woman who thought enough was enough (thanks, Laura Tipton!), the plans for a protest were launched. Again, thanks to the Internet and social media, plans grew. And grew. And grew! Originally, the plan was to protest at the actual church. But that's in the middle of nowhere (and speaking as a native North Carolinian, we've got a lot of nowhere in this state) and it became obvious that there wouldn't be adequate parking for so many people, plus the protest needed to be on public property. So the grounds of the Catawba County Justice Center - which, it turns out, is NOT the home of the Justice League - were requested and permission was granted.
It was my first large-scale protest. We were sent information about what to do (be positive) and not do (don't engage the counter protesters). We made signs* and dressed for hot late-May weather. With a cooler of water and snacks, off we went.
Did we change anyone's mind? I doubt it. The people who thought whats-his-name was a nutjob still thought he was when they left. The people who thought the Bible's "clobber verses" (so called because they are often used to "clobber" gay rights activists) were not the end-all and be-all still thought that when they left. And, unfortunately, the few folks who showed up to convince the rest of us that we were going straight to hell, do not pass go, still thought that when they left.
So why bother?
Because speaking out matters. And because silence implies consent. Every time I stay quiet because I don't want to stick out my neck, I'm saying that what happened to Matthew Shepard was okay. Every time I look down at my toes instead of telling some jackass using the Bible like a shillelagh that he is not to presume his line to God is any more direct than mine, I'm saying that it's okay to belittle and degrade people just because they're different. And it's not. It never has been.
And fighting the Triple Demon of bigotry, ignorance, and hatred with nothing more than magic markers, posterboard, and glitter feels pretty darned good. Even with a little sunburn to go with it.
*You like that? One part of the pastor's remarks went along the lines of: "I'm agin it! God's agin it!" ("Agin" being the presumed slang word for "against" - we had to improvise a little on that.)