Anti-gay Grand Rapids business owner Brian Klawiter held his event outside Grand Rapids on Thursday night and it turned into exactly what I thought it would, thankfully with no violence. I didn’t get to go to it because I was traveling, but I’m a little disturbed at the behavior of those who went to protest the event. Here’s doing it the right way:
A group called Jenison4Love protested outside the Jenison Center for Fine Arts before Thursday’s event. They carried rainbow flags and signs that read “We are all equal,” “Love is the only answer,” “Love can’t wait,” and “We shouldn’t hate others ’cause it’s lame” with a drawing of Cartman from the TV show “South Park,” among other things.
“We really want to raise our kids believing in equality and that everyone is the same, everyone deserves the same love, same opportunities,” protester Emily Taphouse said.
I know several people who took part in that protect, which I think is great. Here’s the problem:
Some protesters also went into the auditorium for the forum. They seemed to outnumber supporters — and the protesters certainly seemed to be louder.
The event seemed to devolve into nothing but chaos at times. There was yelling, chanting and confrontations between Klawiter, speakers, supporters and protesters.
Former state Rep. Dave Agema, who has been criticized in the past for controversial statements on homosexuality, was present. Some protesters shouted at him as he spoke.
Some also shouted at Klawiter early on. After a Dieseltec supporter grabbed a protester’s face, the supporter was escorted out by officers and the protester was asked to leave. No charges will be sought against either, 24 Hour News 8 was told.
After the crowd sang the hymn “Amazing Grace,” some protesters chanted “gay’s OK.”…During the event, one protester stood up and yelled at other protesters for being “rude.”
“You are giving them what they want,” the scolding protester said.
At one point, Klawiter told police they should be removing people who disrupted the event.
They’re both right. And if you disagree because you support the protesters’ position, as I do, let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say we host a similar event and bring in pro-equality speakers. We pay the rent for space and put in all the time and effort to organize it. And then a bunch of anti-gay bigots show up singing and chanting and yelling things at the speakers to drown them out. We’d be demanding that they be removed as well and we’d be just as furious.
Part of the right to speak is also the right to be heard and the right to listen to what is being said. When you try to shout down those who are exercising their rights and drown them out, you are violating their rights — and you would know that immediately if the tables were turned. And no, it doesn’t matter that our side is right and their’s is wrong. Let’s not engage in the kind of special pleading we see so often from the Christian right, let’s apply our standards consistently. Let’s protect the right of the other side to do the same thing we demand the right to do.
I’m happy to see that there were more people against discrimination and bigotry than there were supporters of Klawiter. And we should absolutely protest such events. We should not, however, disrupt them. Here’s a local news report: