After I left the World Can't Wait protest against torture of prisoners, and stopped for a delicious turkey, avocado and provolone panini and about eighteen glasses of water, I made my way back towards the 16th Street Mall, intending to catch the bus and meet up with Calvin and Killfile.
As I waited to cross the street, I noticed a small group of people holding signs and hollering into a microphone. (see first photo).
Apparently, "homo-sex is a threat to national security." Huh? Really?
WARNING, one sign read.
Baby Killing Women
So Called Christians
GOD WILL JUDGE YOU.
In front of these protesters stood a couple of guys with signs advertising computer services and a restaurant.
As I scrambled to take photographs and video at the same time, while not getting pushed into the street, they continued shouting. Lots of dire warnings. Lots of yelling. Spectators began to gather around these folks, and I crossed the street to get closer.
And of course, one of them approached me to ask me if I'd accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I have the whole thing on video, and once we've purchased the right cord to download it to my computer, I'll provide a link to it.
The guy quickly realized that I was beyond saving, and turned to a young man standing next to me, and as I filmed their conversation, I heard a commotion approaching--drums and a cowbell and shouting. Before I knew it, a crowd of 10-15 people had taken over the corner across the street from the "Jesus Saves" people, and they screamed "Take Home Your Hate! Take Home Your Hate!" while banging on drums and cowbells.
The spectators thronged. The handful of cops who had been present instantly multiplied and worked their way between the two groups. The shouting and emotion was intense, and I tried not to get overcome by it all while filming and photographing as much as I could.
Neither side was going to convince the other. And the louder they screamed, the meaner and more derogatory the Jesus Saves people became. "I bet you're a runaway!" They yelled. "I bet you're a drug addict!" "Why don't you call your mother, you runaway!"
The Jesus Saves people even got into a confrontation with the guy holding the advertising sign. "You're probably a liberal!" They shouted at him. "You want to live off the government's teat!" "Get back to work!"
It was insane.
Things got more and more heated, and the crowd got thicker. The police, who were firmly entrenched in the street between the median, where the Jesus Saves people gathered, and the sidewalk, where the cowbell crowd trembled and yelled, were ostensibly blocking the bus from passing down the road. The buses were backed up on the other side of the street, and eventually cops on bicycles moved in and used their bikes to push back the crowd onto the sidewalk so that the buses could pass. Already crowded, the people on the sidewalk squished closer together. The heat, the closeness, the anger, got thicker.
A plan was hatched to run across the street and grab the Jesus Saves people and kiss them, but the bike cops wouldn't let the kids through.
"You can have your freedom of speech--you can yell at them all you want. But please don't cross over there," one cop said to them.
Feeling the crush of the crowd and seeing no way out but to cross, I slipped between two bikes and crossed, making my way across the median and leaving the shouting behind.
Just a block away, it was like a different world. People sat at outside tables and ate their lunches. Only there merest suggestion of the twang of a cowbell could be heard.
Later, as I waited for Calvin and Killfile at the car, a group of three or four people, including a young child, were dropped off on a nearby sidewalk. Killfile and I headed over to interview them, and I have that on video (will be up soon), but the basic premise of their message is that God hates America, Obama is a Fag Lover, and we're all going to hell.
I just don't know how to deal with that kind of speech, and I didn't do well when trying to interview the guy.
Later today, look for articles about today's protests, more photographs, and hopefully video from yesterday and today.
All photographs copyright Victoria Gonia