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Fred Phelps visits Portland, Emi counter-counter-protests the counter-protest

Date: November 25, 2008

Today, I spent a cold November morning counter-protesting folks from Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, known for picketing funerals of anti-gay hate crime victims, U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and others to promote its homophobic interpretation of the Bible and current events (they argue that the 9/11 attack and hurricane Katrina both happened because of the nation’s acceptance of homosexuality, which I’m sure would surprise Osama bin Ladin). They came all the way to Portland to protest the establishment of Queer Resource Center at Portland State University, and gender-neutral bathrooms.

There were about five people from WBC, holding signs that say stuff like “God Hates You,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and my favourite: one that shows Barack Obama’s face with devilish horns attached, with the word “antichrist” over it. In contrast, there were about 200 students and community members there stretched across two blocks and an empty lot, who also held signs protesting WBC (I love the sign that says “Jesus had two daddies”). You can see the photos from the scene in my Flickr set.

After taking photos and chatting with my friends, I got courageous and walked up to the man I believed to be Fred Phelps Jr. (the senior Fred wasn’t there), and started a conversation.

“So, I think I understand why you don’t approve homosexuality, but what do you have against gender-neutral bathrooms anyway?”

“Well, it promotes something that’s against God.”

“Do you have two separate bathroom for men and women in your house?”

“No, but it locks, so women are safe in there.”

“So gender-neutral bathrooms are okay as long as there’s a lock?”

“You don’t have to call it gender-neutral bathrooms.”

“So the problem is how we call it?”

“It’s about what it promotes. Read Romans 1.”

“Don’t you think it’s easier to have homosexual sex in the bathroom when it’s single-sex?”

“Romans 1.”–and began citing the Bible, abruptly terminating a two-way conversation.

So then, I left “God Hates You” side, crossed the street to re-join “God Loves Everybody” side, who weren’t feeling so loving at that very moment as they chanted,

Hey hey, ho ho, Fred Phelps has got to go!
Hey hey, ho ho, Fred Phelps has got to go!

…which seemed strange, as Phelps actually wasn’t there at all. But soon the mostly white crowd began chanting a new phrase:

Fred Phelps, Ku Klax Klan, We can stop them, yes we can.

Argh. Phelps is pretty horrible indeed, but if he were the Klan we wouldn’t be so certain that we are physically safe enough to openly oppose him. I was irritated and wished that people would stop chanting it after a couple of times, but they didn’t. And it wasn’t one of those times I could pull them aside to have a deep conversation about (in)appropriateness of comparing certain aspects of racist violence with homophobic preachers, since there were dozens of people chanting loudly.

So I shouted “shut the fuck up white people, you don’t know what Klans are like” and walked out of the area. Chanting continued for a couple of more times before it subsided, and a reporter from a local TV station rushed toward me to interview me, thinking that I was a supporter of WBC or something. I ignored them and walked along.

1 Comment »

  1. hey emi,

    i am mentoring for a sexualities course this term at PSU and we encouraged our students to go over and check out the protests and engage in it if they were interested. we’ve spent the last week or so talking about trans issues both on campus and the wider world. we showed them an episode of transgeneration.

    hope you had a nice thanksgiving

    Comment by Jen — November 28, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

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