This afternoon, I heard about a video of a “brawl” at the Seattle gay Pride Parade. But after watching the video, I don’t see a “brawl” I see an assault– a few of them actually.
Two protestors, one wearing a “Trust Jesus” t-shirt (something else was printed on the front of the shirt but it wasn’t visible from the video), and the other carrying a tall sign on a poll that read “Repent or Else” on one side (with some illustrated hellfire flames at the bottom) and “Covetousness is Idolatry” and “Materialism, Pornography, Rock Music, Drunkenness, TV worship, Jesus Saves from sin” on the other.
In the video they are confronted an angry crowd. Protestor “Trust Jesus” is physically shoved at least once by a woman in a striped shirt. She’s shouting profanity and at about 1 minute 8 seconds in she warns the tall protestor that her large, bald, George “the Animal” Steel look-alike friend, (later identified by KOMO television as Jason Queree with 29 arrests on his rap sheet since 1995) will “f*** his sh*t up!” and at 1 minute 15 seconds in she warns the Tall demonstrator that he’d better leave or his friend will “get his ass raped!” At the end of the video, it appears that she’s there with a child in a stroller.
At 1:56 young women come and try to take down the tall man’s sign. He retreats. They follow continuing to try to tear down his sign.
At 2:09 whomever is making the video asks where are the cops “there were, like, a whole bunch of them?”
At 2:26 two young men, one wearing red shorts with a grey shirt tied around his waist run into the frame and grab the tall man’s sign, running off with it. (The man in the red shorts also appears at :32 seconds in and appears to try to grab something from the tall man’s pocket or bump into him in some way.)
At that point, a 22 year old man in a gray shirt (also pictured shoving and harassing the TRUST JESUS protestor at 1:30), tries to wrestle the pole away from the tall man, he struggles to keep it in hand, while another male in light blue or green shorts grabs the sign pole as well, but gives up when the tall man and the 22 year old Marysville man fall to the ground. Another young woman then appears to be trying to break a part of the pole. As the Tall protestor struggles to get back up he is clocked in the neck by the running, shirtless, pot-bellied brawler. The Animal look-alike punches while the younger man kicks at the Tall protestor.
According to reports, two men face misdemeanor assault charges. It seems to me, others could have easily faced additional charges, but I kept asking myself, what would the headlines look like and what would the charges (or at least the potential charges) be if this were a religious gathering and two gay men offering zero resistance were assaulted and harassed this way? What if this had happened at one of Pastor Ken Hutchinson’s events? Or at a National Organization for Marriage event and a religious crowd had bullied and assaulted gay men for holding signs saying “gay is good” or “Religion is a fraud” AND the men/women doing the assaulting/harassing made continual references to their sexuality before doing so. Do you think hate crime charges might be warranted?
I could be wrong, but if what I’m reading here is correct, those who participated in the destruction of the sign, threatened these men with harm, or physically assault them should be charged under the hate crime statute.
I had one colleague say that these protestors were jerks for being there and that the signs they had or shirts they wore were “fighting words.” That’s nonsense, at least from what we see and hear in the video. If those are fighting words, then ANY disagreement could be so construed. I also heard, “well, they’re at a pride parade so they’re trying to get attention.” Again, so what? That’s what a protest is. People protest where they can highlight their issue, provide contrast, or simply find cameras and people. These guys weren’t disrupting a funeral they were simply expressing their religious beliefs with a sign.
“But a jury in Seattle would agree they deserved it,” my colleague observed.
Maybe so, but if so, Seattle is not the tolerant town it claims to be. What good is it to celebrate tolerance or self-control if you can only stop yourself from attacking someone if you agree with them and their beliefs don’t offend you?
I should note that while the video shows vile behavior, it is relatively limited. There are thousands of people at the parade and only a handful infringing on the rights of these men or cheering on those who are doing so.
For the record, I am not convinced it’s a good idea to categorizing crime by evil intent category. I believe assault is assault. If you’re punching my face because you hate my religion, my sexuality, or you’re just in a bad mood, the crime and punishment should be for punching my face.