Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry on August 6 co-hosted the oxymoronic “non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting,” known as “The Response,” with his million-dollar financial supporter, the American Family Association. While only 30,000 attended, the violent results of their evangelical experience were felt by some, immediately. Jay Morris explains, in this first-hand account.
On Friday, August 5th, I left the office, rushed to pick up fellow activists, headed to our designated meet-up spot in San Antonio and loaded up the pick-up truck to head to Houston, Texas. We had been planning this trip for some months knowing that we could not let Governor Rick Perry’s alliance with a hate group go unchecked. Activists from all over Texas were converging on Reliant Stadium to respond to The Response.
There was a lot of excitement on the road to Houston, and I’ll admit there was a lot of nervousness as well. Most of us in the Texas-sized pick-up truck had stood in the middle of crowds of evangelicals before. Instead of experience calming us, it perhaps made us even more nervous as we had seen mob mentality escalate into fits before.
On Saturday morning, we met up with other GetEQUAL TX organizers near Reliant Stadium. Few of us had slept more than three hours the night before, and several had not slept at all. We covered ourselves in sunscreen, discussed our positioning and marched toward the west entrance of Reliant Stadium where we would set up shop for the day. Few, except for the Houston Police Department, paid much attention to the crowd of people carrying rainbow flags and a coffin as they pulled into the stadium parking lot to join the Texas Governor and the hate group, The American Family Association.
By 9:00 a.m. we were already experiencing the discomfort of the heat. Our spot on the West side of the stadium provided us some shelter from the scorching sun, but sweat still beaded up on our faces and soaked our clothing. It was around this time we held the first of our three funeral processions of the day, honoring the lives of those LGBTQ people who had been murdered or taken their own lives as a result of the hate spewed by organizations like the American Family Association.
Shortly thereafter, we encountered the very hate we were there to protest against, a man in a different Texas-sized pick-up truck who continued to circle the stadium, passing us, squealing his tires and revving his engine, causing black exhaust clouds to plum around us. After a few times of this, he took it a step further, jumping the curb and pushing several of us back away from the street with his vehicle. In spite of the large police presence, this assault went unnoticed by the authorities (or perhaps it was simply disregarded.)
As you’ll note by the above video, our first procession was led by a band, which just happened to appear at the event and agreed to lead the procession. By the second procession around 10:00 a.m., we were band-less, but our voices would not be silenced. We rounded up our group and some others who were standing by, locating a lone drummer, and prepared them all to sing “We Shall Overcome” as we marched down Kirby Avenue honoring and remembering our fallen brothers and sisters.
Near noon, we held our third and final procession of the day, and as we strolled down Kirby Avenue, many others joined behind:
Immediately after this procession, we entered the cross-walk and headed to pack up the coffin, signs, rainbow flags and other items. Several participants of The Response were leaving for lunch or other affairs. As if to prove our point that their rhetoric leads to violence, a man in yet another Texas-sized pick-up truck turned out of the parking lot, punched the gas and came barreling at us, missing us by only a foot or two. The miss was likely intentional as we were sitting ducks in the cross-walk had he wished to actually harm us, but his message was clear – he will protect his heterosexual privilege at all cost, even violence.
After lunch, several of our organizers headed back to the stadium for the close of the event. One of them, John Dean Domingue, was met by a Response attendee who, in her zeal to save his soul, thought it acceptable to begin pushing him toward the stadium saying, “Have you been inside? You need to come inside.” John Dean later noted that before the event, those arriving weren’t very hostile at all, but upon leaving they were much more apt to push their views on the protesters by shooting the finger, shouting and otherwise shoving protesters.
This was The Response generated by the supposed prayer event. Perhaps fear, violence and intimidation are exactly how the American Family Association, presidential want-to-be Rick Perry and the evangelical hate machine will confront the crisis faced by America. If so, we can expect more crises and more murdered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should Perry and his evangelical lot get their prayer of a presidency answered.
Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio, a writer for Ignite San Antonio Magazine, and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.