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Melee In the Castro

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2008
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San Francisco police had to escort a group of preachers out of the Castro. Those so-called “Christians” are now using this as an excuse to post the most extraordinary claims and garnering vast amounts of publicity and sympathy for themselves on right-wing blogs.

Update: The YouTube was raw footage from KTVU television. The full report is here.

I know there’s a lot of anger out there. I’m angry myself that for the first time in history, voters went to the ballot box to strip a minority of their rights — rights which they already were granted and were exercising. This has never happened before. I can’t tell you how angry I am.

And I’m not too proud of myself when I say that if I had been there, I might have also followed that whistle-blowing crowd.

But this is not the way to go. Just as we are exercising our First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly all across this nation, we must remember that those rights are the very same rights to peaceful assembly that they enjoy. And we are exercizing those rights so that we may regain the very same rights to marriage that they enjoy.

[Hat tip: Pam Spaulding, Joe.My.God]

Update: Okay, I think I understand why some of you are upset with my post. It seems to at least partly center around this:

And I’m not too proud of myself when I say that if I had been there, I might have also followed that whistle-blowing crowd.

To the extent that my criticism was leveled against whistle-blowing, well, that was extremely clumsy of me. I should have thought better before writing that line. Everyone there had a right to counterprotest, scream, blow whistles, hurl insults — all the things I’ve seen happen at counterprotests to events I’ve attended — to try to get them to leave. Everything’s fair game short of violence, threats and physical contact.

I guess my reaction is to this:  never mind what the so-called “Christians” here claim — because I don’t trust their word on anything — but what on earth led more than a dozen San Francisco police officers to arrive, form a moving cordon down 18th street (if I have my bearings correct), and escort them safely to their vehicles? Is there a reason why they couldn’t just leave?

And whatever that reason was that they couldn’t just leave — well that’s the part that I might not be proud of myself if I had been there. I am angry enough myself to have gotten caught up in whatever might have happened. I do think things can go so far. I do think that I could go too far — I’m mad as hell myself. And that’s why I think we need to be careful.

Comments

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Steve
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

So, let me get this straight. They have the right to come into our community and protest us.

If we protest them for being there, that’s intolerance.

Why?

Southern Decency
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Before you repudiate an alleged deed by your own, consider that the protesters probably made this stuff up. Not that they were “chased out” — I’m sure that some people yelled at them to get lost, which is what happens to any street preacher sooner or later — but that they were sexually molested and physically intimidated and all that other unproven nonsense. Too often I have been in moral agreement with conservatives, only to find out later that they just made the facts up that lead to that agreement.

elaygee
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Why would any community allow such evil as the christofacists into their own community? Nazis in Christian garb are still Nazis. Let’s see how the other half likes getting ther treatment.

Jim Burroway
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

You have to admit that it is a bit unusual for police to form cordons to extricate people out of a peaceful counterprotest. It’s true that we don’t know what events led up the the police’s arrival. But I doubt that they would have had to form a cordon like this just because someone wanted to go to their car and leave.

re: “Let’s see how the other half likes getting ther treatment.”

Uh, isn’t that what we’re doing? Which is an action I fully support.

homer
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Exactly when will it be considered poor taste to tell homosexuals that they are sinners and perverts?

AJD
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

As long as there weren’t any physical assaults on these people (and I don’t think there were…), I can’t say I feel bad.

The religious right loves to take incidents like this and blow them out of proportion to demonize gays, but that’s just a tactic to keep us from standing up for our rights. I think we need to stop letting that scare us.

Could we have expected anything different if the KKK demonstrated in a black neighborhood, or if skinheads held a rally in a Jewish neighborhood? Come to think of it, we probably could: They’d be lucky to make it out alive.

These people, on the other hand, were loudly denounced and chased out of the Castro. I would say they asked for what they got.

Snappyback
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Gay people fear for their safety every damn day. Consider this a lesson in empathy.

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I unequivocally condemn any violence or any actions that could have been interpreted as sexually aggressive. Further, I do not object to people of faith taking their Good News out to the streets.

However, I do believe that while some have the right to sing and preach in public, others have the right to blow whistles. Both are annoying and disruptive but in this context both are protected speech. One says, “I want you to live according to the teachings of my religious affiliations”, and the other says, “I reject your religious teachings.”

I am saddened for several things:

First, I am unhappy that these persons had to be escorted out for their own safety. I wish that the community had shown tolerance on their self-righteous ignorance and given the preachers the compassion that had been denied to gays. Yeah, it’s a lot to ask, but I do wish it had happened. (But I do consider it to be worthy of mention that they come regularly into the Castro to condemn homosexuality and that they have always – until now – been left alone.)

Secondly, I am unhappy that the members of this church were so uncaring about the ramifications of the political actions they and others took to take away fundamental rights from their neighbors that they sincerely thought that things would just go on as usual. It never occurred to them that gay people should feel even slightly discomfited by the passage of Prop 8. And they never bothered to notice the ongoing protests. Prop 8 “happened to gay people” and shouldn’t have any impact on them.

I’m also saddened that the Christian Church (in general) has become so arrogant as to think that it is entitled to condemn others without response. They are truly amazed that those whom they attack would respond with unhappiness. And they have taken on such an unquestioning perspective – an assumption of supreme authority – that they consider any disagreement to be Persecution for the Name of Christ. There is no humility or consideration of others. This is the very antithesis of the message of Christ.

And I am sad that anti-gay political activists will distort the story and use it as a tool to further their goals of discrimination and of religious control of civil society.

David C.
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Tim,

I don’t want us stooping to their level and loosing touch with our values either.

It would get a lot harder for anti-gay political activists to distort anything if we make as much of this activity of theirs visible to the rest of the world as we can.

Perhaps we need to start using technology and more surveillance of the activities of this adversary against them. That does mean we have to stay on the the right side of the rights question, and treat everybody with the respect we demand as pro-gay activists.

David
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

” a bit unusual for police to form cordons to extricate people out of a peaceful counterprotest. ”

No. It is not unusual at all, what is unusual is for the press to pay attention. Nor has this group ‘always been left alone’. There have been complaints about them, particularly when they used to use megaphones that exceeded the noise code, for years. What has changed is that some people are no longer willing to put up and shut up, and that is a good thing over all.

“anti-gay political activists will distort the story”

Anti-gay political activists distort anything and everything. We cannot live our lives in fear that they will take something we do or say, and use it as material for lies. Anything we do is lied about. I’ve seen material from this very blog distorted by anti-gay political activists to advance their prejudice – are you really going to shut down?

Of course not. We lost on 8 in part because our self-appointed leaders didn’t want to give the homophobes any ammunition, and produced an almost gay-free campaign. That did not stop the homophobes from coming up with a winning litanty of lies.

Louie
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Unfortunately, these things must come to pass with our own civil rights movement.

I recall seeing footage from documentaries of all the “violence” that happened during the black civil rights struggle.

This cannot be totally avoided and those on the opposite side of equality will use these scenes as evidence of us not deserving of equality, just as they were used against black people back in the day.

What we need is someone our entire community looks up to and admires to temper the masses into a coordinated national effort of peaceful protest and civil discourse, yet unflinching advocate for change!

kevin
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I’ve seen this video and all I can think to myself is: God, I wish *I* was there! I absolutely would’ve been outraged and I absolutely would have been up in their faces. I don’t respect their “religion”, because not only is it a perversion but it is a weapon of hate. Hate and lies: now they are claiming to have been “sexually assaulted”. Bull.

I’ve never been more proud of the outraged queer community than watching them FIGHT BACK against these religo-fascists.

Some of you either have short memories or you just weren’t around in San Francisco when neo-nazi skinheads targeted gay men, freaks, and people of color. When they decided to have a march for “white pride” in the Haight, they were also chased out and, yes, they were even beaten. That is not a moment of shame in the history of the city of San Francisco, it is a moment of pride.

I am PROUD of the queers who took these bigots on last Friday night.

By the way: why don’t you actually learn about who these innocent “christians” are by reading their website:

http://www.jhopsf.org/

Under “Vision”: “we have a mandate to stand against the homosexual agenda…”

Well, queers in the Castro gave you THEIR MANDATE friday night and this is what the gay agenda looks like. We won’t stand silently by or ignore you anymore.

We are FED UP!

Tim
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

This is no different than a group of hooded KKK idiots marching down the street of Harmlem… They get what they get. THEY incited US … The religious right can go climb back under their rock. It’s THEIR oppression that put this world in the state it is in right now… Look at all the wars going on in the world based on religious opinions.

Go listen to John Lennon’s “IMAGINE” again… really listen to it !!

kevin
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

It should also be pointed out that this happened in the CASTRO.

The Castro is a lot of things, but “gay activist central” it is not. For many years, the Castro has been where gay men go to forget they are oppressed. Trying to get gay men (and they are mostly gay men) to pay attention to any issue that doesn’t involve electrolysis or home furnishings in the Castro is the frustration every real LGBT activist shares. I know, because I’ve tried organizing on multiple issues, including against the war in Iraq in 2003, in the Castro only to see folks skip my flyers and pick up the flyers from the club kids down the block at 18th.

The average gay man in the Castro is not interested in being an activist and if it’s not a party, then you’d be hard pressed to find your average Castro queen engaging in anything that remotely resembles “mass action”.

What happened Friday night was amazing because of the fact that it happened at all, who did it, and where it happened.

Such spontaneous acts of average gay men fighting back against homophobia in the Castro hasn’t been seen like this since 1989, and before that the White Night Riots of 1979.

I tell you, I’m in shock…and yes I am proud that FINALLY these men who frequent the Castro finally put aside partying and bar hopping long enough to rage against these bigots invading our community to tell us we’re “sick”.

John
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Hang on a sec Jim, while these folks have the right to demonstrate in Castro isn’t this a bit provocative on their part? I mean this wasn’t just a pro-Prop 8 event, but instead the news article says they were trying to ‘convert’ gays to ‘become’ straight. I find that to be insulting regardless of Prop 8.

TonyJazz
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

You missed the boat on this one.

I was there, and these offensive people had no business in the neighborhood (and they regularly have been there)–except to gloat and cause problems.

They can make their statements somewhere else. I would say the same about the KKK coming to the Castro.

They can have their free speech somewhere else.

John
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Provocative anti-gay christian groups routinely try to provoke people in the Castro. The police have a fairly low threshold for putting on riot gear and taking precautions. Groups like the Phelps notify the police, expecting them to show up at the Phelps’ clan beck and call. As annoyed as the SFPD have been, they always end up showing up to avoid some sort of violent clash.

I wonder if the cops were there all along. If anyone was at the protest, I would be interested to know. And as long as nobody did anything violent, I think this was just another example of American freedom of speech in action. Let freedom ring.

Dave
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

“for the first time in history, voters went to the ballot box to strip a minority of their rights — rights which they already were granted and were exercising.”

The problem is those legal rights were granted by a court that intervened in a controversy without clear guidance from the state’s constitution. Which is to say they were granted improperly. Most Americans don’t like it when courts act that way.

If the Supreme Court of California had minded its own p’s and q’s instead of inventing a new right (to form a family unit) out of whole cloth, there would have been no Prop 8.

werdna
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

“Most Americans don’t like it when courts act that way.”

Let’s be honest, most Americans don’t really understand the legal reasoning behind any high court rulings, nor do they care to. Some people do, and among those that do there is often strong disagreement about that reasoning. What most Americans who object to “judicial activism” don’t like is the outcome of the decision, not the legal basis or reasoning behind it.

You, Dave, may have a thoughtful and principled objection to the CASC’s decision, but all you’ve done here is made an assertion and attempted to support it with an appeal to what “most Americans” do or don’t like. Give us a short synopsis or, better yet, a link to your own blog where you’ve made a thorough analysis of the California Supreme Court’s ruling and maybe we’ll be convinced by your sensible argument.

Finally, Prop 8 was going to be on the ballot whichever way the court ruled, so your final sentence is factually incorrect.

Louie
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

What some people don’t or more likely “refuse” to understand is that the California Supreme Court did not create any “new” rights for gays and lesbians.

They simply and properly adjudicated a case where there was discrimination in place and based on the California Constitution, that discrimination had to be eliminated because of its contradiction to the California Constitution.

To put it in more layman terms, the California Supreme Court simply put an end to marriage discrimination in California.

Even the Connecticut Supreme Court, when they too brought down the barriers of discrimination this year, agrees that civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc. are not equal to marriage when they wrote the following:

Any married couple [reasonably] would feel that they had lost something precious and irreplaceable if the government were to tell them that they no longer were ‘married’ and instead were in a ‘civil union.’ The sense of being ‘married’ — what this conveys to a couple and their community, and the security of having others clearly understand the fact of their marriage and all it signifies — would be taken from them. These losses are part of what same-sex couples are denied when government assigns them a ‘civil union’ status. If the tables were turned, very few heterosexuals would countenance being told that they could enter only civil unions and that marriage is reserved for lesbian and gay couples. Surely there is [a] constitutional injury when the majority imposes on the minority that which it would not accept for itself.

If the California Supreme Court had minded its own P’s and Q’, then we would still have two institutions that some claim “separate is equal”, when in reality they are not equal.

Patrick
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Let them distort what happens – they will anyway. The more they do it the more it will eventually backfire on them for the disconnect it creates. I recently had a discussion with an individual who cited the woman with the cross who was “physically assaulted” by gays in Palm Springs (I think it was). I replied that when this woman was “physically assaulted” she was able to walk away without a scratch. When gays are physically assaulted we end up in the hospital or dead. Let’s just keep highlighting the difference between how they are “persecuted” and how we are persecuted. The people watching the discussion will see a clear difference.

Richard in CA
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

The Religious Reich has a constitutional right to be in The Castro … and the gay men had a constitutional right to blow whitles, yell “shame” and drive them from their neighborhood.

These Religious Reich folk were there to start trouble – to convert gays to straight – and the men were absolutely correct to drive them away.

I usually agree with the authors of this blog – but this time they are way off base.

Richard in CA
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

BTW The California Supreme Court decision on marriage equality was ABSOLUTELY based on the Constitution of the State of California. To say otherwise is to prove to me that one has not read the decision or the constitution.

Jim Burroway
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I’ve added the following update:

Update: Okay, I think I understand why some of you are upset with my post. It seems to at least partly center around this:

And I’m not too proud of myself when I say that if I had been there, I might have also followed that whistle-blowing crowd.

To the extent that my criticism was leveled against whistle-blowing, well, that was extremely clumsy of me. I should have thought better before writing that line. Everyone there had a right to counterprotest, scream, blow whistles, hurl insults — all the things I’ve seen happen at counterprotests to events I’ve attended — to try to get them to leave. Everything’s fair game short of violence, threats and physical contact.

I guess my reaction is to this: never mind what the so-called “Christians” here claim — because I don’t trust their word on anything — but what on earth led more than a dozen San Francisco police officers to arrive, form a moving cordon down 18th street (if I have my bearings correct), and escort them safely to their vehicles? Is there a reason why they couldn’t just leave?

And whatever that reason was that they couldn’t just leave — well that’s the part that I might not be proud of myself if I had been there. I am angry enough myself to have gotten caught up in whatever might have happened. I do think things can go so far. I do think that I could have gone too far — I’m mad as hell myself. And that’s why I think we need to be careful.

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

On good thing about the El Coyote boycott protest was that while protesters yelled at customers, they did not get in their face, seek to impede their movement or in any way harm or physically intimidate them.

While most entered in a side door, some walked right past protesters to the front. No one even stepped into their path.

David
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

“but what on earth led more than a dozen San Francisco police officers to arrive, form a moving cordon down 18th street (if I have my bearings correct), and escort them safely to their vehicles? Is there a reason why they couldn’t just leave?”

The error lies in assuming that the police were acting because of some implicit or explicit threat on the part of the GLBTQ people, when, they may well have been escorting the Biblebeaters to leave, as a step short of arresting said Biblebeaters.

In other words, when said folks wouldn’t take the hint and scram, the police encouraged them to do so.

Keep in mind that the police in SF have, on more than one occasion, over-reacted by exagerating or inventing the threat posed by GLBTQ people – when they didn’t under-react to threats posed by homophobes. Long-time GLBTQ residents remember another night when SF cops marched down Castro street, beating people.

David
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Whenever I see a second or third-hand account of a protest, even with video – I remember an event I witnessed, and how it was distorted by the mainstream press.

There was a protest rally in the Castro some years ago – during Wilson’s term as Governor, and as part of the hours long event, the Sisters burned a cardboard coffin with cardboard cuts out of Wilson and Bush Sr. and someone else. The flames lasted less than a minute, and as soon as the flames were out, a cadre of protesters in matching outfits swept up the ashes and mopped the roadway.

While the little bonfire was burning, I noticed a tv camera man and news reporter covering the scene, and I overheard the reporter tell the cameraman to get down on the ground to film, which he did. The effect, of course, was to exagerate the scale of the fire.

So, on the news later, there’s the report, filmed to look as if the entire Castro was aflame, and, the footage looped several times to make it appear to last longer than it did.

Oh, and I also saw, first hand, that on the night that Frank lost his shoe, it was one of his supporters who started the pushing and shoving. That is not how it was reported.

Anything in the mainstream press is suspect, even video.

Piper
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

I may have missed it, and I will go back to read again, but what church were these protesters with? Because I find it HIGHLY offensive that people put all Christians in with people like this. I am a Christian, and I fight for gay rights.

castro resident
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

With all due respect, I think you’re way off base on where your criticism lies. I live in that neighborhood (not far from where their van was apparently), though i somehow missed the full extent of this Friday night. They were there where they often go–the very corner of the heart of the Castro. Yes, a corner just a few doors from Harvey Milk’s camera shop and just down the street from where the Castro Theatre will start showing Milk, the film capturing the life as well as murder of Harvey Milk…a murder partly based on religious views. Throw on top of that that two religious denominations (Mormons and Catholics) led the entire effort to pass Prop 8, and you will see why emotions are high.

1. Remember, they have a right to speak but they do not have a right to be heard.

2. Think about the parallels. Think about a group of anti-Japanese bigots holding a gathering in Japantown to celebrate the anniversary of Nagasaki. Think about a group of Nazi sympathizers or Holocaust deniers standing outside a synagogue in the city celebrating the millions who were murdered. Think about a Klan rally going through Bayview calling for a return to lynchings. Now, think again about this group going to the symbolic very HEART of the gay community in SF right after fundamental rights were taken away by popularity contest.

While all of those groups have a right to speak, I would join in with any group in those neighborhoods on any day at any moment in making it as uncomfortable for them to be there as possible, including chanting and yelling at them (we call it counter-protesting) until I make sure they have left. And next time, I’d like to see a few hundred more join in.

P.S. and had I known they were parked near my house, I would have made sure to have both my dogs pee on their tires for good measure! :)

Louie
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

It doesn’t seem like these people belong to any particular church or denomination. It seems they are just adhoc Christians that formed just to antagonize the gay community in San Francisco. They call themelves “The Justice House Of Prayer San Francisco”

Here’s their website link:
http://www.jhopsf.org/

Their poorly designed website has some sort of flash links right under the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. They read: events, history, vision, values, contact, donate and links.

castro resident
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

also, here’s an excerpt from their website values so you have a better sense of what they were doing in the heart of the gay community:

Homosexuality
God has led us to contend for the deliverance and redemption of the homosexual community, believing that those who have been forgiven much will surely love much. (Luke 7:47) Out of this community will arise extravagant lovers of God who will worship him with creative expression and devotion. We have a mandate to stand against the homosexual agenda that raises itself up against the knowledge of God and seeks to destroy the identity of our generation.

kevin
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Who is Justice House of Prayer, San Francisco?

Well, for starters they are led by the son of Lou Engle, a charismatic Fundamentalist of the Dominionist variety. He believes himself to be a “prophet”.

JHOP is a franchise and is also associated with “The Call”, which put on that underattended rally in San Diego. They focus heavily on recruiting young, “hipsters” into their cult.

According to Right-Wing Watch:

Engle is an unabashed “dominionist” – someone who thinks the church, under the leadership of modern-day apostles like him, should rule over government and other institutions of society. He thinks of himself as a John the Baptist who badgers Christian teens to adopt a radical lifestyle of fasting and prayer that will bring God’s intercession against gays, liberal judges, and the like. And his style – screaming at the top of his lungs and rapidly rocking back and forth – is a sharp contrast with Dobson’s polished media-star demeanor.

A new report by People For the American Way Foundation documents some of his other charms, which include:

praying for God to “terrorize” judges until they fall like stars from the sky

believing that the appearance of the goddess Minerva on California’s state seal is a sign of demonic domination over the state by the “Jezebel spirit”

suggesting that marriage equality is Satanic and legal abortion spells America’s doom

More on Engle, JHOP and the folks chased out of the Castro here:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/individuals/lou-engle

Alex H
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

Good job with this story Box Turtle Bulletin and Jim Burroway.

I don’t blame them in the Castro for kicking that group out of the neighborhood. According to the news story on KTVU, those religious folks were there every week trying to convert gay to straight (isn’t it ironic that the argument used to be that gays were the ones trying to recruit and convert straights?).

So although it might not have helped our cause and gave their side ammo, I must say that I can’t blame the people who ran them out. In fact, I’m quite proud of them.

If that religious group did that in West Hollywood, I think they would have been beaten up badly.

Willie Hewes
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

They were there to cause a disturbance. What makes you think they WANTED to leave?

I figure David’s got it right.

Timothy Kincaid
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

If that religious group did that in West Hollywood, I think they would have been beaten up badly.

That’s not very likely. SoCal gay politics are VERY different from SF. They would likely have been argued with by very sincere people quoting Scripture. If that didn’t help, they’d be surrounded by gays who would direct others away from them.

For example, at the protest on Saturday there were five counter protesters with big hate signs. In front of them were 8 to 10 gay people telling those who came up, “Don’t confront them, don’t argue with them, don’t give them attention.”

No one did.

AJD
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

But if they demonstrated in the West Village, it would probably be a different story altogether.

kevin
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

Here is a profile of the “Christians” who were chased out and their spiritual leader, Lou Engle:

http://hetnorm.com/2008/11/18/lou-engle/

David C.
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

To AJD:

I dunno, If the JHOP types had made an appearance in NYC’s West Village, I’m pretty sure they would just have been ignored, like so many other kooks you find on the streets of manhattan. My experience is that most New Yorkers are prone to just ignore potential trouble makers unless that trouble gets in their face, at which point said trouble makers would have maybe one opportunity to avoid a look that would kill.

Any physical contact coming from thumpers like these is rare, and they immediately start to play “victims” unless they are crazy, at which point somebody is gonna get hurt. Any gay person attacked in the Village will immediately be assisted by other gay people, so you don’t see too many activists spoiling for a fight down there anyway.

Of course, your mileage may vary in the outer boroughs.

AJD
November 18th, 2008 | LINK

David C., that’s sort of what I was getting at — if they got really confrontational, things could get ugly.

Alex H
November 19th, 2008 | LINK

Timothy Kincaid wrote: That’s not very likely. SoCal gay politics are VERY different from SF.

You’re right, Tim. On Saturday’s protest everyone was trying to be on their best behavior and so no one was getting into it with those who were for Prop 8 and carrying the religious hate signs.

I meant if a group like that popped up in West Hollywood on a Friday night, especially now, things would get ugly.

Jeremy
November 21st, 2008 | LINK

Wow. Way to go guys! Don’t let that lunacy stampede your night out! We’ve got enough drama to deal with. I bet they all went home feeling proud, strong & connected. Bless ‘em all :)

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