Monday, April 16, 2012

Don Gorton: Anti-Gay Activist Scott Lively Causes Uproar At Boston Tea Party Rally

An April 15th Patriot’s Day rally on Boston Common sponsored by the “North Shore Tea Party” drew a spirited turnout, but was not what organizers planned. Featured speakers Scott Lively and Brian Camenker, who lead the two Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups in Massachusetts, shifted the focus of the event away from the fiscal issues the “tea party” movement purports to emphasize to the social issues many Republicans would rather avoid. Lively is best known for his role in promoting the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” pending in the Ugandan Parliament, which would impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” Camenker stands out for his strident opposition to safe schools programming designed to reduce bullying and harassment of LGBT youth.  The controversy Lively and Camenker touched off resonated even before the rally, as Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, a former Governor of New Mexico, cancelled his plans to appear at the event. A crowd of approximately 75 tea party activists gathered round the bandstand on the Common to hear speakers representing groups like “Show ID to Vote,” “Newsbusters” and the Mass. Republican Assembly. From the outset about 20 protestors from Join the Impact MA stood along the edge of the surrounding sidewalk quietly holding signs condemning Lively and Camenker for their homophobic advocacy. Just before Lively’s and Camenker’s turns at the podium came, roughly 100 exuberant protestors from the Occupy movement charged onto the scene chanting loudly and waving signs. 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 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.  

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