I thought Positive Atheism might be interested in the counter protest of the Christian Coalition's rally in support of Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore.
OPERATIONAL REPORT, THE MOBILE ATHEISTS
DATE: 11 MAY 2002
LOCATION: MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA
EVENT: COUNTER-PROTEST OFF CCA PRO-MOORE RALLY
Members of The Mobile Atheists (TMA) and other groups protested a pro-Moore rally held by the Christian Coalition of Alabama in Montgomery. Counter-protesters outnumbered the Moore supporters by 2 to 1. All involved had a great time.
0815: TMA members met at the UUFM
0830: Departed Mobile for the drive to Montgomery.
1050: Arrived in Montgomery and met up with other groups that were preparing for the March to the capitol building. Groups involved in the protest were: The Mobile Atheists, The Birmingham Atheists, The Wiregrass Atheists, Skeptics-Freethought of North Alabama and American Atheists. Approximately 25 atheists assembled at the intersection of Hull & Alabama in Montgomery for the "parade" and protest. While waiting for the procession to begin, the Associated Press interviewed Blair Scott and Larry Darby.
1105: Began procession to capitol building. The procession was led by the large red American Atheists banner held by the daughters of Larry Darby and Blair Scott. FOX News from Montgomery videotaped our procession and was very interested in the girls holding the American Atheists banner. We marched down Hull St and turned right on Dexter Ave. Our procession was uneventful and without any contact.
1115: Arrived at Dexter & Bainbridge where we were to set up "camp" for the remaining time. The Christian Coalition's area had already been pre-staged and there were a few Mooreheads already on scene. They had Christian music playing over large speakers (noise pollution is bad enough, but "Songs4Worship" noise pollution is the worse) and a table was setup with propaganda, historical revisionism tracts and signs for the arriving Mooreheads.
Across Dexter Ave., the Alliance for Civility and Tolerance (ACT) had pre-staged "rainbow rope" for their counter-protest and their supporters were arriving slowly. We were the only group to arrive in unison and in "parade."
After our arrival, several newspaper reporters came over and interviewed several people. FOX, NBC and ABC were already on site (CBS arrived later) and began videotaping our group.
1135: Enough ACT supporters had arrived and we decided to pay their group a visit. The leaders of each group agreed that we should remain across Dexter Avenue from each other instead of combining forces. This was done so that the Mooreheads, when looking out beyond the steps of the capital building, would see opposition on the right, left and center. This strategy worked greatly in our favor once the Moorehead rally began.
1145: A Moorehead from Victory Baptist Church decided to come over to our group and started reading out of the Bible at us. Images of The Exorcist flashed through my head -- I couldn't help it. We gathered around the Moorehead and began chanting "Evil, evil, evil" over and over again and holding our signs up so that he was preaching to our signs instead of us. At this time several other Mooreheads came over and started harassing us as well. The atheists stood their ground and continued to simply chant back, "Evil, evil, evil..." At this point the police intervened and made the Mooreheads go back to their designated area and instructed them not to go back over and harass us. Several others still came over later, but were smart enough not to bring signs with them, this way they didn't draw the attention of the police.
It is important to note that the police were very amicable and polite. They went out of their way to ensure that all groups were given equal access and that all groups were treated fairly and professionally (Several times we caught the police having a good time and laughing -- good for them!)They police made sure that we were aware of what we could and could not do and even helped us out by telling us we could go into the rotunda with the CCA after the rally.
Even when the police were called against us by the Christians, it was done professionally and without incident. One of the Christians had vandalized a city stop sign by hanging a Ten Commandments poster on it (this is against the law, by the way). One of the atheists took it off the stop sign and laid it on the ground. The sign then became a "toy", of sorts, as it was passed around and mocked. We're not sure exactly what event with the sign irritated the Christians into complaining, but we're have a fairly good idea that it was when someone, we'll keep Reid's name out of this, used it as a booty-board in a little dance in the street. ;-)
During the "dead time" between incidents and the upcoming rally, we had a blast and made the best of it. Many danced to the Christian music and gave our best shot at doing the "Happy Jesus" dance. There was great conversation, laughter, dancing, shouting, parading and plain old good times.
1205: The CCA officially call their rally to order. The rally started with a prayer. During the entire rally, we heckled the speakers, usually based on something they said in their speech. We accomplished this several ways: 1) mass chanting of a single slogan, but only for a limited time; the chant changed based on what the person was speaking about. 2) Shouting out single words during pauses of the speech, which made our shouts heard by everyone because we weren't competing with microphone and speakers. 3) Taunting by saying one word over and over again using the same vocal mannerism in which you would call the family dog back into the house. 4) Being as loud as possible.
Many times we were louder than the speaker that had the microphone. We also had the benefit of acoustics. The CCA speakers had to project their voice over a large area of trees, parking lot and people. All our shouts went up into a narrow step area where the rally was. In addition, the doors to the capital building were open, so whatever we said went inside the capitol building, echoed off the walls and came back down the stairs at us. The CCA had to hear everything we said... TWICE! ;-)
When it was time for the Pledge of Allegiance, it was the only time that all the groups spoke at once and didn't shout at each other. The atheists said the PoA louder than anyone else and ended the PoA two words before the Mooreheads. Across the plaza was an echo of, "...and justice for all (atheists) ... justice for all (Christians)," as they finished just after us. One of the newspapers that reported on the rally mentioned that the atheists said the PoA louder than anyone else. Great going everyone! After the PoA, the atheists continued to say, "...and justice for ALL ...and justice for ALL" for a couple of minutes. It was very appropriate.
1300: Several times we made trips across Dexter Avenue holding the large American Atheists sign and giving support to the ACT folks. They returned the gesture and send several representatives over to stand with us for a while. The ACT folks ended up leaving early and did not stay for the entire event. The atheists stuck it out until the last minute (more on that later).
During the speeches, most of the comments and shouts from the atheists depended on the context of the speech. However, many phrases were shouted over and over because we heard a lot of historical revisionism (like Jefferson was a devout Christian, et. al.) and hate and anti-Constitutionalism. One of the phrases that we repeated during attempts to re-write history was, "Liars for Jesus". This one seemed to turn the most heads of the Mooreheads standing on the steps. The word "bigot" was used a lot as well as "haters". The phrases "What truth" and "Whose Justice" were used a lot as well.
Overall, we found the best method of heckling and causing the speakers to stumble over their speeches were independent yells from individuals, based on the context of the speech. If someone said something that worked really well, then it was sometimes chanted for a little bit just to emphasize the point. One phrase that was used like this a couple of times was, "Where was God on 9/11?"
1330: The CCA finished their rally and began their prayer march. The police told us we could march on the sidewalk alongside the Mooreheads, but we could not walk in the street with them. We obliged the police of course and were happy to march alongside the Mooreheads and continue to heckle them. At this point, Matthew 5:5-6 was quoted by atheists throughout the Moorehead prayer walk. During our march alongside, several debates began. One gentleman told us that he was glad 9/11 happened and was glad that almost 3,000 people had died. His reasoning you ask? He's happy because 28 million will be saved because of their deaths.
1350: The procession ended back at the steps of the capital building. At this point we gathered the troops and walked back to our vehicles. During this walk we went out of way to be cordial and polite to the departing Mooreheads. We waved goodbye, told them to have a nice day and to drive safe. During this walk we encountered the same gentleman that had said he was glad that 9/11 happened. We again, as a group, wished them well. A TMA member added, "I certainly hope your daughter is never in a building that has a plane flying at it."
1405: The atheists met a Chappy's Deli in Montgomery. There were hollers of "WATER!" as the waiters and waitresses came in. One lesson learned at our protest was that we needed coolers of water instead of people bringing one bottle of their own - water went fast. We enjoyed a little post-protest pep rally, great food and wonderful conversation.
I wish I could convey the amount of fun we had in an email. It's impossible to do. We accomplished our goals by outnumbering the Mooreheads and being louder than them. We got our views out and showed them that they are not the majority. At the same time we had an absolute blast doing it. If you want to know how much fun we had, just look around your group and find the guy or gal with the sunburned face and ask them, "How much fun did you have on Saturday?"
Activism, especially actions such as protesting, seems to have a stigma around it. People see the actions as laborious and a lot of work. The exact opposite is true. They are a lot of fun and a great source of entertainment, with the side benefit of getting the message out. The fellowship alone is worth it. When atheists begin to admit that they need fellowship, too, perhaps we will start to see a bit more activism. Fellowship is not a religious word, so don't let religion hijack it from Webster's Dictionary. Fellowship is important at a psychological level and a societal level. We all need to be among those we can trust, those that we can talk to without fear of being discriminated or harassed.
And we had fun doing it!
No matter where you are,
there you are!!!
The following atheist groups had representatives at the rally:
The Mobile Atheists
The Birmingham Atheists
Skeptics-Freethought of North Alabama
The Wiregrass Atheists
Atlanta Freethought Society
Undaunted by hecklers who screamed "bigots" and "evil" at them, supporters of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore rallied Sunday on the Capitol steps and sang his praises.
Moore, whose display of the Ten Commandments in the state Judicial Building and remarks about homosexuals have drawn criticism, didn't appear at the one-hour rally. But his wife made it clear she stands by her man.
"He came here to make a difference, and he has," said Kayla Moore, who joined more than 100 members and supporters of the Christian Coalition, which sponsored the rally.
A large number of opponents, representing several different groups, stood across the street from the Capitol rally.
Kelly McGinley, a conservative radio talk show host who helped arrange the rally, hailed Moore as a West Point graduate, war hero and defender of American values.
"We live in a time and a day when people call what is evil, good and what is good, evil," McGinley said. "We live in a time when everything is turned upside-down and we live in a lawless country."
Moore was elected chief justice after a court fight against the American Civil Liberties Union to keep a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom in Gadsden, where he was a circuit judge. In August, he placed a 2½-ton stone monument of the Ten Commandments in the Judicial Building's lobby.
In March, Moore wrote that a woman was an unfit mother because she was homosexual. He called homosexuality an "inherent evil against which children must be protected."
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr., who sat with leaders of the rally, said Moore's duties represent a major challenge "for anyone."
"What a lot of people don't realize is it's not easy being chief justice of Alabama," Hooper said. "You have a lot of responsibilities. You have to worry about being funded, and you have to make a lot of decisions."
Two large groups totaling about 200 people stood across Bainbridge Street, holding placards and banners and responding vocally to the complimentary speeches being made about Moore.
"I'm very much against Roy Moore and the bigotry and indigence he stands for," said Brandon Wallace, 21, a senior at Huntingdon College. "He represents a very archaic group which has a power hold over this state which needs to be eradicated."
Wallace joined other supporters of the Alliance for Civility and Tolerance, an anti-Moore group that stood quietly as the Christian Coalition conducted the rally.
On another street corner, members of the American Atheists were much more vocal. At one point, some of them got into heated face-to-face debates with Moore supporters.
Several candidates for statewide office handed out literature and buttons to those who attended the rally and then stood under the sweltering sun to listen to the speeches.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James appeared moments before the rally started and shook hands as he waited for it to begin.
"This is the First Amendment," James said with a big smile as he looked around at Moore's supporters and opponents.
Spectators from the Tennessee Valley to Mobile Bay and neighboring states were up early Saturday to get to Montgomery to voice their opinions about Moore.
Ray Knisley of Atlanta held a sign urging everyone to say "No to Nazi Judges."
Asked if he considered Moore a Nazi, Knisley said: "Yes, I think probably his target is not Jews, but in essence, his nature is the same. His targets are people who are not like him and who do not toe the line."
But Robert Deakle of Mobile said those who showed up to rally against Moore were "the devils" and were headed for a "very warm place."
"Anybody who does not believe in God is going to hell," Deakle said. -- Danny Barnwell and Tina Seeborg of Decatur identified themselves as members of the "Skeptics," a group they described as being "closely related" to the American Atheists -- led at the rally by Larry Darby of Montgomery.
Several yards from the Decatur couple stood Kevin Cartwright of Montgomery, holding a placard proclaiming "Organists Against Moore." He said he plays the organ at a local church and is "openly gay."
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