Counter-Protests Overshadow Boston Tea Party Rally

Jim Burroway

April 16th, 2012

The last thing you want is for the counter-protesters’ arrests and reports of “rushing the stage” to become the main story to emerge from an anti-gay rally, as that only serves to feed the persecution complex of anti-gay extremists. The only other story to compete with that meme is that of a photo that was posted on Flickr showing a Boston police officer’s hands around a protester’s neck. Criticism of the Boston police’s handling of the Tea Party rally prompted a statement from a department spokesperson saying that they would investigate, but that due to “the aggressive nature” of the protests (the short statement used the word “aggressive” twice) the department “supports the arrests made by the officers today.” The man in the photo was reportedly not among those arrested.

According to the narrative from Boston’s primary news outlets, those appear to be the main stories behind yesterday’s Mass Tea Party Rally held on Boston Common which featured Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries an SPLC-certified hate group, and Brian Camenker of MassResistance, another certified anti-gay hate group.

Turning back to the rally itself, it’s very difficult to learn exactly what was said there. MassResistance posted a headline saying, “Mob of homosexual activists overrun & nearly shut down Boston Common Tea Party event as police look on and do nothing.” But if the The Boston Globe and local television reports are any indication, it appears that the rally was neither overrun nor “nearly shut down,” nor that the police “did nothing” amid those reports of arrests and apparent abuse. Online accounts of what Lively or Camenker said are sparse. One is from Mike Ball:

Photo by Mike Ball

Lively came on at the very end to give a benediction. Of course, given his self-righteous bent, it wasn’t a blessing at all. It was the eternal-damnation version of Deuteronomy 30. His went beyond the “I have set before you live and death; therefore choose life.” It was if you warn someone what they have to believe and they don’t do it, they’re going to hell. So there.

Some benediction, Scotto.

During his time, the counter-demonstrators kept up their yelling, calling him a murderer, in allusions to his Ugandan politicking. They did shout him down.

Photo sent to me from Matthew Murphy, who is shown holding the sign.

Ball said that turnout for the rally on Boston Common was rather small, perhaps about 100 people. About 40 more were counter-protesters. Another account, from Join The Impact MA, puts the number of counter-protests at 20, but they were joined by “100 exuberant protestors from the Occupy movement (who) charged onto the scene.” According to that account:

The din became an uproar as Lively took the microphone. In his speech, Lively blasted conservatives who would minimize the importance of social issues. Then he denounced LGBT rights activists as “fascists” who were intent on destroying civilization. Camenker met with similar pushback as he criticized the work of GLSEN for allegedly promoting homosexual recruitment of public school students—in reference to the group’s efforts to prevent anti-LGBT bullying. Lively and Camenker were loudly booed, and much of their speech-making was drowned out by Occupy chants and “mic check” counterpoint.

Not all counter-protestors joined the chanting. I (Join the Impact MA’s Don Gorton) argued that Lively and Camenker should be allowed to speak, both out of respect for freedom of expression and because they tend to discredit the opposition to LGBT equality when their extremist views are publicized. Yet the passions these two hate group leaders stir are difficult to contain. Tea Party organizers learned that giving a platform to anti-gay bigotry effectively drowns out any other message they may seek to propagate. The Boston Police kept the peace while allowing everyone an opportunity to be heard. By the time anti-government activist Carla Howell took the podium after Camenker, most of the “tea party” attendees had frittered away, the momentum of the rally dissipated.


April 16th, 2012

If you respect free speech then respect free discourse. It is not “respecting free speech” to allow hate speech to fester. Speech of that sort needs to be countered in free discourse & I say the sooner the better.

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2012

Not all counter-protestors joined the chanting. I (Join the Impact MA’s Don Gorton) argued that Lively and Camenker should be allowed to speak, both out of respect for freedom of expression and because they tend to discredit the opposition to LGBT equality when their extremist views are publicized. Yet the passions these two hate group leaders stir are difficult to contain.

Protest groups tend to be comprised of two different types of people: those who have a goal in mind, and those who are angry. Often times it doesn’t matter – the response is the same regardless of motivation. But unless the goal-driven people (usually the ones who organize) insist in advance that the angry people take their lead in when to protest, the anger can be counter-productive.


April 16th, 2012

“Free speech” is about the government versus the individual, not about shouting down some hateful speech…


April 16th, 2012

I was at the Tea Party rally yesterday expecting to hear all about limited government and individual liberty. What I got was strong dose of radical religious dogma. I am a Tea Party supporter BUT I DO NOT support the radical views put forth by these speakers. The Mass Tea Party coalition has cast real Tea Party members in a bad light.

“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Matthew Murphy

April 16th, 2012

Hello, Matthew Murphy here, from Join the Impact MA. I’d just like to confirm the numbers contained in Don Gorton’s write-up of the event. It was quite clear at times that the number of counter-protesters outnumbered the Tea Party participants, but the numbers on both sides fluctuated as the day went on (and as the slated speakers droned on and on incessantly – certainly some of the most stultifyingly dull public speaking I’ve ever endured).

I’m also a bit concerned that Jim’s article makes it sound like the small group of disrupters that were arrested at one point in the proceedings was the predominant impression left by the protest. This was simply not the case; it was more like a blip on the afternoon’s radar screen, although I personally felt that the incident did TEMPORARILY detract from the effectiveness of the protest. (It was also my general impression that the police handled a tense situation fairly well.)

The overriding impression I was left with is that there is a very large schism between Tea Party enthusiasts whose critique of Obama is mainly economic and tied to a philosophy of small government, and another faction that feels very strongly about “social issues” such as abortion and same sex marriage. (And sure, there are a few downright racists mixed in there, too, but a small minority.)

The protesters’ loudest, most vociferous “shout-downs” were reserved for Lively and Camenker. It is highly doubtful that these two will continue to be asked to participate in these kinds of events, as LGBT-rights activistis will continue to hound them and call out their bigotry and hatred (dressed up though it is in religiosity). Their organizations have been recognized for what they truly are: hate groups, pure and simple, that target a specific minority of people. And hate group leaders have no place as official participants in so-called patriotic celebrations or as spokespeople for actual conservative principles. (Then again Tony Perkins still gets plenty of airtime on MSNBC, so maybe I’m wrong.)

In any case, thanks for recognizing the event here on BTB, and rest assured that Lively and Camenker’s anti-gay bigotry will continue to be attacked, deflated, and made obsolete.

Jim Burroway

April 16th, 2012

I’m also a bit concerned that Jim’s article makes it sound like the small group of disrupters that were arrested at one point in the proceedings was the predominant impression left by the protest

The predominant impression left by the protest is often not determined by the protesters, but by how the protest was portrayed to the millions of onlookers who weren’t physically there but had to rely on news reports from those who were. And in that regard, it does appear that while the impression of those few hundred who were there may very well be quite different, it will ultimately be the impressions conveyed to the millions beyond that will end up being the narrative everyone refers to.

Unfortunately, a tiny number of protesters didn’t stop to think through how their actions will be conveyed to the larger media. While it may have been a tiny minority of protesters who became the focus of attention, they are, nevertheless, the focus of that attention. And so, sadly, nobody’s talking about what was actually said on that stage, which would have placed a the reason for the protest in much sharper context. For all readers know, they were protesting for more taxes and spending or, heck, more socialism, whatever that’s supposed to mean — rather than the very specific poisonous messages put forth by the anti-gay extremists on stage.

But if the speakers on stage were the main focus of the story, things would have been very different. It would have been about how crazy Camenker, Lively, Feder, and others were with their foaming-at-the-mouths rhetoric, and about what an embarrassment they were to the conservative movement. Lamentably, that’s not the narrative going out. Needless to day, I was very frustrated in not being able to find even one direct quote from any of the eminently quoteable characters. Join the Impact MA’s Don Gorton had it exactly right: “Lively and Camenker should be allowed to speak ….because they tend to discredit the opposition to LGBT equality when their extremist views are publicized.”

In my view, that is a huge missed opportunity.

Matthew Murphy

April 17th, 2012

I understand your point, Jim, and I did not agree with the “storming” tatics used by a small percentage of protesters (who were definitely not part of our group, Join the Impact MA, by the way). And I agree it’s unfortunate that a few misguied anarchists end up stealing the focus, at least temporarily. But with all due respect, I can’t think of anyone in our movement at this point who cares to actually read or hear what Scott Lively and Brian Camenker have to say, the inlammatory, anti-gay garbage that they regurgitate over and over at these and other events is so well known. However, if you’d like to actually hear some samples of their speeches and comments, they’re available here:



April 17th, 2012

I liked the protesting, all of it! I wish there were more like this. Kudos to ALL protestors. I am of the shout them down variety. Yell louder. That is what a protest is. The H8ters have plenty of opportunities to say their hatred all over the press, don’t worry their H8 will get out.

The worst protests I ever saw during the NOM Summer of Hate Tour were the protests when they protested off site at a different location.

The only thing I saw lacking was a drum. You really need to have a drummer to keep the beat going for protest chants. A drummer really adds a to a protest. People will follow a drum.I am very grateful to all the protestors who showed up, each and every one of them.

If some people want to put themselves out there and do something that gets them arrested that is okay, let them do it. I am NOT advocating they take off and slug somebody, but if they get arrested for crossing a line or yelling in a non yell designated area, I am fine with that. The enthusiasm and energy of the Pro Gay Civil Rights Protestors in Boston was uplifting.

Timothy Kincaid

April 17th, 2012


The problem with shouting down haters is that by doing so you become one.

If what we object to about Camenker is that his ideas are disrespectful and hateful to others, our point is lost when we reciprocate with disrespect and hate.

Then it ceases to be civilized and inclusive v. boorish and exclusionary and instead just is a matter of which group you want to hate.


April 17th, 2012

More than 80% of Tea party members don’t think gay couples should have the right to marry. THAT speaks volumes about these “Don’t tread on me” folks…they only care about THEIR rights, while they urge prohibiting the rights of others. In general, the party attracts selfish jerks. That has become beyond evident. If you’re in the Tea Party, that says a lot about you.

Timothy Kincaid

April 17th, 2012


But yet, the ideas they claim to believe should be benificial to us. If we were able to get them to apply their principles to us, I do believe we could build allies out of enemies.

Don Gorton

April 17th, 2012

The JTIMA counter-protestors held signs and handed out leaflets, and had planned merely to boo the hate group leaders while the tea party people applauded them. Most of the Occupy counter-protestors chanted while the hate group leaders spoke, but remained within the bounds of the First Amendment. A few guys with bandanas on their faces charged the stage and were disruptive. JTIMA does not control the guys with bandanas on their faces and we did nothing to encourage their tactics. The organized LGBT rights movement was measured in its response to bigotry, which is all we can do.

Jim Burroway

April 17th, 2012

Thank you Don. As I said earlier, I think you understood very well what needed to happen. Unfortunately, that’s not what the end result was. As you said, you can’t control everything.

But with all due respect, I can’t think of anyone in our movement at this point who cares to actually read or hear what Scott Lively and Brian Camenker have to say.

That, I strongly suspect, was the thinking behind the Occupy protesters. The problem is that it has nothing to do with what the “movement” wants to read or hear, but what the greater public should read and hear in order to understand the very particular dangers that people like Lively and Camenker pose. Instead, they got news reports about Occupy protesters versus the Tea Party, and for all they know the argument was about Obama care or tax policy.

Or maybe, I dunno, something about the gays. But not about a man who has re-written the history of the 20th century to claim that gays were behind the rise of the Nazi Party, that gays caused the Holocaust and WWII, that gays ran the gas chambers and were sadistic prison guards who brought about the deaths of 6 million Jews and 6 million others. And had Lively been able to speak without interruption or distraction, I am quite sure that his talk would have strayed onto THAT subject, because it is his favorite subject and he always talks about it.

But ALL of that was lost, and along with that a huge opportunity to clearly define Lively in the newspapers and on the evening news not just as someone who is not very nice, but as someone who is far, far worse than your pedestrian bigot. Because, frankly, as it is right now almost nobody knows who he is or what he stands for, except maybe a vague recollection that gays don’t like him for some reason.


April 17th, 2012

But Tim, I think you miss the point.

They have no interest in applying their ideas to us, and they never will. Because they are less wedded to the principles they claim to stand for than the direction in which those principles point – to themselves. The most common thread is “I got mine, drop dead” or “You got mine, give it back” — the commonality there is “me me me”, not “liberty” or “freedom”.

Go back and look at their idealogy. When their ideas seem to conflict, it’s because you’re looking at the so-called logic instead of at the pronouns.

Timothy Kincaid

April 17th, 2012


Careful, you’re using a pretty broad brush.

I think that some of the people you are talking about have decided that they oppose gay people (because it really is about people) and that any request for equality will be met with excuses and explanations and irrational rants. For some, it is indeed “I got mine, drop dead”.

But some of the Tea Party people genuinely believe in smaller government, individual autonomy, and freedom. They often have contradictory views because they know what “we” believe on the subject but they have never sat down and asked themselves just what individual freedom means when applied to gay people and gay rights. And you’re right in saying that they don’t intend to apply their ideals to us. But many of them will if we patiently and without anger ask them to do so.

I’m not sure that dismissing them benefits anyone, us or them. But, by golly, that’s what our community seems determined to do.

I think that we have untapped allies. In fact, I know that we do. People like Grover Norquist are not the folk we think as allies. And likely he doesn’t spend much time around gay people or much like them. But from an ideological perspective, he does support some gay rights.

You probably have noticed that one of my recurring themes is that our community needs to accept support where we can find it. And we need to not make enemies out of potential friends.

Yes, it will cost us. We lose the fun of trashing some folk. We lose the rush of righteous indignation. We lose the feeling of superiority that comes from seeing entire classes of people as “bad” or “stupid” or “hateful”.

But ultimately, those are things worth giving up. I really believe that.

Donny D.

April 21st, 2012

Peter wrote,

More than 80% of Tea party members don’t think gay couples should have the right to marry. THAT speaks volumes about these “Don’t tread on me” folks…they only care about THEIR rights, while they urge prohibiting the rights of others.

Where do you get your figures for “Tea party members”, Peter? Because if you get them where most seem to, from public polling of people who say they “like” the Tea Party, you’re using bogus numbers. Probably the overwhelming majority of those people, 18% of the population when I last looked (a while ago) have never done a single thing to actually get involved with Tea Party activism. The number of REAL Tea Party members is probably a very small fraction of that polling demographic.

Another problem with using people’s polled sentiments to make definitive statements about their activism is that mature adults are able to hold sentiments but not want to see those sentiments enacted as public policy. For instance someone who is anti-abortion but doesn’t want to see restrictions on abortion, or someone who is very angry at criminals but doesn’t want draconian “law and order” remedies enacted. Or someone who thinks marriage is for straights only, but due to a laissez faire philosophy, doesn’t want anti-same sex marriage restrictions.

Others might want to see some of their sentiments made into public policy but see that as a far less important goal than what they think should be given effort to. For instance people who think the law should prevent same sex couples from getting married, but that that is a low priority compared to activism in support of conservative economic policies.

As I remember CNN’s investigation into actual Tea Party members and groups, perhaps a year ago, where they contacted many hundreds of grassroots Tea Party organizations and asked for their opinions, there was virtually no interest in socially conservative political activism. Things may have changed since, of course, as the recent Boston Tea Party rally might be suggesting. But it might also be unrepresentative, or just a minority tendency within the movement.

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