I celebrated the vernal equinox by venturing out at dawn to meet & greet the Phelps Hate Squad. I've seen pix and video of this group and I not only wanted to see them in action, I felt it my duty to go out and confront them. [For more information about the Phelps mob and how you can confront them visit drivingequality.com]
What a pathetic little pack of squabblers they were. They numbered seven at most, anchored by one heartily hateful woman who seemed quite cheerful in her role as cheerleader of their group. How annoying is that? Sorry, sick and sad, one and all.
I grew up country and there's this saying that goes about someone being "too stupid to hit" and I felt that way about the Phelpsers, I felt sorry for them in their ignorance and I couldn't quite vocalize the vitriol that I felt for them.
On the other hand I was impressed by the turnout of local East Boston folk of all orientations who were genuinely appalled to be attacked by this group. Bolstered by activists from multiple groups the Phelpsers were vastly outnumbered.
I lived for several years in East Boston just a few blocks down from the high school and the daily school traffic came and went with few remarkable occurrences. I never once encountered any disrespect from anyone about anything while I lived there. There were a few mean ladies around the supermarket but they were equally nasty to everyone.
The neighborhood was changing from an Italian flavor to Latino and PanAsian, yet during a summer when we had several fires, including one next door to me, men of all nationalities pitched in to help pull fire hoses down the street and neighbors gathered to assist and comfort those affected regardless of ethnicity.
An episode of COPS filmed in East Boston included a sequence on my street where some punk was running from the police and every single resident they passed pointed very matter-of-factly which way the 'perp' was headed. One thing everybody had in common was that we all wanted to live in a nice safe place. No crime and no crap was appreciated.
I was incensed that Phelps had chosen to attack this great neighborhood's high school.
I knew that I wouldn't be the only person out there to show them that they are not welcome. I also knew that even if I was going to be the only person out there I would have gone.
I hung out with the very diverse anti-hate crowd and we chanted, sang and yelled a few things over to haters. I spoke with some folks who worked at the high school who seemed a bit confused about why they had been targeted and tentatively appreciated the counter-protest. More than one local recognized me and thanked me for coming.
I heard remarks that some were disappointed that more high schoolers were not involved. I commute daily to Brighton with high schoolers and 7AM doesn't appear to be a very active time for most teenagers that I've encountered. I'm pretty sure that 7PM would be an entirely different scene involving many more students.
I had to get to my job and I left immediately after the Phelpsers packed up their one-ring circus and departed.
Walking down to the bottom of Brooks street I was elated to find the new Airport T station and park land completed. What was once a wasteland of derelict warehouses, parking lots and detached roadways is now a beautiful usable green space complete with a wonderful fountain area for kids to play and for all to cool off in the summer.
Along with countless other working stiffs, for years I had navigated a sketchy path across this area from Chelsea street, which included squeezing through a break in a fence, to reach the T station to go to work. It seemed then that nobody cared about the hardworking folks of Eastie.
I would like to thank everybody who came out Friday morning and also everyone who supported the counter-protest causes in other ways.
East Boston IS cared for and supported by many other communities.
I believe that as long as we remain watchful and steadfast in our commitment to confront groups such as Phelps' we are helping neighborhoods and communities in a uniquely American way. Freedom has always been defended in this country in countless ways and on many different sorts of 'battlefields'.
A footnote on Phelps and his church:
I'm no longer a monotheist but I'm pretty sure that God does not hate anyone or anything with the exception perhaps of those who choose to use the word of God to hate. Twisted.... but you know what I mean, right?
Help combat Phelps at DrivingEquality.com