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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 12, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 28
We are a nonviolent movement
Section One
ALL STORIES
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We are a nonviolent movement

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

By now I'm sure you have all watched the video circulating on Youtube and other media, in which a man carrying a 'Repent or else' sign is assaulted at Seattle's Pridefest, June 30. The video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=utyiN7g0TkE, has been viewed over 200,000 times. That is more than any single PrideFest video in existence. Violence is what the world has seen our 2013 Pride display.

The behavior exhibited by the allies and community members in the video is reprehensible. It is hard to watch. This is not what our community is about and, therefore, we must publicly condemn this kind of action, because it is something we should never see again.

The video shows bicycle police officers watching a loud debate between two groups of people near Fourth Avenue North and Broad Street, but continuing on their way.

As shown in a video shot by a witness, after officers leave, the crowd continues to yell at and shove two religious protesters. At one point, the video shows a 36-year-old Marysville man taking off his shirt and threatening the sign-holding protester.

The man eventually starts leaving, saying, 'Cops are coming; let's roll.'

After a group of women try ineffectively to steal the protester's sign, a group of men grab onto it and pull him to the ground while the crowd applauds. That's when the video shows the 36-year-old run back toward the fight and punch the sign-holder in the back of the head multiple times.

Officers returned to the scene after the fight was broken up and arrested the 36-year-old, who was booked into King County Jail. A 22-year-old, also from Marysville, who the video shows grabbing the protester's sign and kicking him while on the ground was arrested and later released. Both men are facing possible misdemeanor assault charges.

I am shocked that we, as a community, have stayed silent about this incident. As the co-founder and president at Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), I do not intend to be one of those leaders. Instead, I will say right here and now that this was completely outrageous and that I hope the two men are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Assault is not a part of activism. And you are not an ally to this community whenever you do something like this.

In the nine months that SOSea has been in existence, we have organized or taken the lead on four rallies and two marches. At each one of those events we held signs. Now, there are people who would walk by and disagree with what these signs said. That is the their right, they can do that as an American citizen. What they could not do, however, is approach us, try and take our signs and then assault us. Because if they did the community would be in an uproar as fast as you could say, 'Equality.'

Think about all of those times you've been to a meeting or rally or march. Did you hold a sign? Was the message popular at the time? Chances are, you took part in one of the Ref-71 or Ref-74 actions. You were not attacked by the opposition. This video is not something that needs to be shoved into a dark corner and forgotten. Instead, it offers us a teachable moment that regardless on which side of the argument you fall, violence is never the answer.

While the current LGBTQ equality movement traces its roots back to the Stonewall riots, we are, and always have been, a peaceful and nonviolent movement. We just heard, days before PrideFest, that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor on DOMA and Prop 8. PrideFest 2013 was supposed to be a celebration. And, for the most part, it was. But this is certainly a black eye on the whole thing.

Protesting with a sign does not mean that you should be assaulted; otherwise, we'd have a lot of LGBTQ people hurt because protesting with signage is something we have been doing for decades. Why we are standing for this as a community is beyond me. We have got to do a better job at calling these things out and condemning them when they happen. I understand that there is a lot of emotion that fuels the fires of hate on both sides of the argument, but assault is never the answer. In fact, we owe the man who was assaulted an apology for the show of violence. While I would stop short of apologizing for our views and for thinking that his message is wrong and bigoted, we still must apologize for retaliating with force.

The worst part is the people cheering. SOSea and other local organizations have condemned the rise in violent crime on the Hill and also the attacks on LGBTQ homeless youth in downtown Seattle. And yet, at our own party, one that is traditionally and historically peaceful despite the sale of alcohol and massive number of participants, we react to a person demonstrating well within their civil rights, with violence. It is shameful.

This is something that we must address. SOSea is going to get with other local leaders and discuss what we feel is the proper response to this mess. We won't stand for violence of any kind. And you shouldn't either.

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