By Kathleen Gilbert
Updated 2:30pm EST 7.22.10
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, July 21, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Unhampered by police, a peaceful pro-life rally devolved into chaos Sunday after an army of homosexualist activists shouted down presenters, screamed insults, and even targeted for harrassment small children of families who had come in support of marriage between a man and a woman.
A group organized by Queer Action Rhode Island began by chanting loudly through bullhorns as they approached the rally, organized by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) as part of the month-long Summer for Marriage Tour 2010, in front of the State Capitol building.
But, according to NOM executive director Brian Brown, it became clear that "this was not going to be a normal counter-protest" when the 250-strong red-shirted crowd "kept coming forward" until police gave way and allowed the screaming crowd to flood the stage and podium - for which NOM had obtained a permit from the state.
"I've never seen anything like that, and I've been involved in the marriage issue for the last 15 years," Brown told LifeSiteNews.com. Video of the event shows protesters screaming inches from Brown's face as he attempts to continue the presentation.
In addition, he said, the Providence protesters "started jeering and heckling families" and even clearly targeted small children with screams and insults - treatment, said Brown, that left several children, including his own, tearful and asking whether they would be safe.
"What they were trying to do was scare [us] and scare little children," he said. "It was so out of bounds that it was surreal. ... I know my kids were crying, other kids were crying too. They were literally crying at the end, asking if they were going to be OK."
One horrifying incident caught on video shows a protester pointing off-camera and shouting angrily: "You better watch that kid or we're gonna kidnap him!" Others shouted directly at children as young as 4, calling them "Mommy's little bigot" and other such slurs, said Brown.
Despite his determination to finish the rally, Brown expressed deep concern over the event. "I have to tell you, I was very concerned that this was completely unsafe," he said. "The looks on the peoples' faces ... they looked like they wanted to hurt us. What they said was basically underscoring that point. Whatever they could do to frighten our supporters. ... People were frightened. People were very concerned for their own safety and their children's safety."
The pro-family ralliers, he noted, remained peaceful - and Brown took the opportunity to preach the loving respect that must sustain rational debate.
Brown said NOM is in the process of sending a letter and the video account to Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, detailing the lack of police action. Requests to interview a spokesperson for the Providence Police Department were not returned as of Thursday afternoon.
In an earlier stop on the tour in Albany, Brown said another counter-protest had erupted, although far less intimidating. However, one woman who Brown says was visibly shaken by harrassment at the rally was interviewed on the video after counter-protesters refused to leave her alone. "Their goal was intimidating me and my 3 children, small children, 5 and under - which I think they did the job," said the woman.
Daniel Avila, the Associate Director for Policy & Research of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference who attended the rally, said that the "venomous cacophany" after the activists stormed the podium was "stomach-squeezing."
"When the Capitol police finally started to intervene I looked around me and saw the most remarkable thing. I did not see clenched fists, bulging eyes or reddening cheeks. I could not detect any sign of 'fight or flight,' anger or fear," he wrote in an account published by NOM. "I saw heads bowed and hands folded, or eyes raised and arms extended.
"A frail woman next to me, surely no veteran of political street theatre, had a look of what I can only describe as deep compassion. A man to my left spoke more in wonder than in any tone of disgust or contention, saying softly, 'this is what hell must be like.'"
Brown said he told the crowd that, given the course of the marriage debate in America, "you shouldn't be surprised that we start being treated like bigots."
"This whole protest made our point better than anything we could say," he told LSN. "It was clearly an attempt to silence us: clearly the people that were up there shouting at us don't think that they need to treat us civilly, they think that we're somehow outside the bounds of respectable discourse - and I really can't see how they could do this without really dehumanizing us in their own minds.
"We refuse to be treated as second-class citizens for believing what the majority of Americans believe and standing firm on it," he concluded. "We need to stand up on this."
Governor Donald L. Carcieri
Office of the Governor
State House, Room 115
Providence, RI 02903Phone: (401) 222-2080
Fax: (401) 222-8096
E-Mail form http://www.governor.ri.gov/webform/inquirytest.php