This week’s highlights are all about discoveries: even an utterly miserable anti-choicer can actually smile (but they’re not supposed to), and I apparently now know how to emotionally agitate pro-lifers as spontaneously as they deliberately set out to do to the general public. And oh, how I laughed and laughed.
This Friday, something was in the air. There was an electric charge of excitement. I’m not sure what else it could be, it was just like everybody was in a good mood. I, on the other hand, had been discussing the theme of cannibalism in my psychiatrist’s office, prior to a long walk to a lab to have fasting blood samples taken and a surprise EKG conducted (then add to that a surprise request for more samples, some time this week), and then trekking all the way back to drop everything off with just enough time left over to rush right back to the picketing site. I had also gone to bed thinking it would be Thursday when I got up. But then I was startled into consciousness at quarter after 6 in the morning by my alarm. To say I was tired is a gross understatement — I was so exhausted, I didn’t even have an appetite. It was truly wonderful to be met with so many positive greetings, high-fives, expressions of gratitude, and supportive affirmations. It gave me the boost I needed to turn my frustration into comical energy, to dance and wiggle, and let off some steam with a good burst of laughter.
Today I divided my time between the very edge of the corner and lingering around anti-choice women who made a point of taking a space where they would be seen by the abortion clinic staff. Man With Donald Trump Hair (whose name is Roger) stood alone on the corner. While lingering where the staff could see me, the most remarkable thing happened: a crow flew down and briefly perched on my sign. I fucking love crows. A short while later, Roger actually cracked a smile — something none of us even thought he could do with his face. But then he did it a second time while I was talking about how many fewer muscles it takes to smile than to scowl at everyone. It must be something about not standing next to a woman who tells women that they deserve to be raped that puts a lift in his spirits or something. I know it sure helps mine to not have to see her repeatedly dropping her wheelie bag into traffic (I mean seriously, just get a walker; or even better yet, stay home). It just so happened I had been thinking the night before about how utterly fucking miserable all these anti-choice people are (theoretically speaking), and how everything in their world is so black-and-white that there really is no room for joy. And in fact, they deliberately set out to spread their misery to everyone else, on a mission to change people’s hearts by being as unpleasant as possible.
I arrived, covered in head-to-toe checkered spandex, 20 minutes ahead of when a group called Vancouver Against Abortion had plans to show up with abortion porn placards from Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform. They showed up late for their own demonstration, and asked me if I’m doing a demonstration there, as I just happened to be standing on the corner from which they had plans to terrorize the unsuspecting public. I said I’m just there to meet someone. I may have deliberately omitted the part about how I was there to meet them. I silently moved aside, and they approached me to say thank you (because apparently they feel particularly entitled to take up that entire corner). They spent an additional ten minutes consulting each other before all their placards were exposed. And once they were, I unfolded my sign. The woman who had asked me if I’m demonstrating and then thanked me when I stepped aside became spontaneously agitated and forcefully declared “I thought you said you were meeting someone!” I didn’t say a word. They started shouting at me, “What does your sign say?!” I didn’t answer. Two of them walked up and read it aloud, then started repeating what it says to everyone among them: These people are here to represent the interests of a hate movement.
From what I was able to distinguish from passersby, there were nearly a dozen (white middle-class) anti-choicers, and they were all upset that someone they couldn’t identify, secure eye contact with, or bait into any form of conversation or debate, was communicating to passersby that they were all there to represent the interests of a hate movement. Seems I managed single-handedly to do to them exactly what they explicitly set out to do to everyone else at these demonstrations, and they didn’t like the taste of it. And for the record, I’m not just guessing any more about their express purpose in exposing unsuspecting eyes to these horribly graphic images. I no longer have to guess, because I received their protocol guidelines (care of CCBR) a while ago, which state their intent loud and clear:
Choice Chain Protocol
Correct behavior is paramount for safety – it can go a long way towards calming those who might be emotionally agitated by the images. Debate team members must remain composed under verbal attack (even if you have to practice!)
- Volunteers must not yell or shout at a member of the public, threaten a member of the public, or touch a member of the public. People may yell or come up to a volunteer and yell at them but remember to be calm and to speak carefully.
- A volunteer who is becoming emotional should take a break and stand quietly
CCBR’s policy is to protect people, not property – If someone is attempting to steal your equipment
- It is appropriate for you to physically position yourself between your team and the attacker, only if they are moving to attacking individuals
- It is NOT appropriate to attack the person or cling to the property in such a way that could cause the situation to escalate to a point where people are no longer safe.
If someone has assaulted your person – call the police and defend yourself to the extent that you see fit.
Volunteers should be trained to be very aware of their surroundings – report anything to the spokesperson that you see as suspicious activity around you
Your behavior should mirror what you are presenting – Never EVER forget that you are holding a picture of a dead baby.
- Volunteers should be discouraged from laughing, joking, or talking with each other during the demonstration
- To engage with one another while on the street deters people while on the street deters people from approaching you and does not create an atmosphere of sobriety
- If you need to answer your cell phone, pass your sign to the volunteer next to you and walk a distance away to answer.
- Do not run after a person walking by. If someone has shown little or no interest in your conversation, do not chase after the person.
And whoever was typing on behalf of CCBR when I contacted them on Facebook made it out as if they had no influence in Vancouver’s anti-choice presence, yet somehow, there they are anyway, literally telling them what to do and how to do it. I wonder how exactly they expect their volunteers to let go of CCBR’s property if they are being assaulted (which they expect to happen to their volunteers), when the volunteers are literally wearing these signs around their necks — and I wonder if any of these volunteers have heard of “the yoke of slavery” before. In any case, I saw a lot of people smiling at me, even more nodding, and a few actually said out loud that they agree, while a very clearly distressed woman spent the greater part of an hour shouting in their faces before a second woman began shouting at them for exposing her very young daughter to their abortion porn, furious that they didn’t give her daughter the choice to look at that revolting placard or not. You can guess what their red herring response to that complaint was. I’ll leave it to your imagination, just how upset that mother continued to get when they said it. When all the yelling stopped, a man politely asked to take my picture, and when I nodded, he took a succession of pictures approximately three inches from my nose before walking away. I’m sure he was one of them, and yet, I won’t do anything to stop them from trying just because I disagree with them.
I folded up my sign when the last of their signs was packed up. One of the men among them walked up to me and called me a coward, saying that because I’m hiding my face, I’m cowardly. Someone else had already beat him to the punch on that one today, though. A man had approached me to ask Yes/No questions about what was going on; then realizing that I wasn’t speaking, started asking questions like “What do you stand for?” (as if that even matters) and “Why are you hiding your face?” (as if that has any relevance). I just shook my head until he called me a coward, at which point I gave him the middle finger and told him to fuck off when he kept shouting at me as he entered the crosswalk. A few moments later, another a man approached, claiming that I’m somehow attempting to infringe upon their right to free speech by exercising mine at the same time, thereby apparently achieving the monumental feat of being a hypocrite in his mind. Something tells me it doesn’t take much — or anything backed by evidence at all — to convince any of these men of a double standard, hypocrisy, or cowardice, because if you disagree with them, you’re fully qualified for all three by default. It also seems that none of them realize that dissent is the reason for freedom of speech, which means I can stand out there to express my dissent and not fear being arrested for trying. They also don’t seem to be of the mind that I have the right to self-determination with respect to my own actions and decisions. But really, if your ideas are so weak that a single person’s dissent threatens everything you believe in and everything you are organizing with up to a dozen of your middle class friends and thousands of dollars of materials, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
I walked away calmly when they finished calling me names, and I walked into a restaurant about a block away, where I then went into the bathroom to change. And what happened? But I heard someone repeatedly coming in and out of the other bathroom within moments. I’ve never heard a bathroom door in a half-empty restaurant open and close so many times in rapid succession. And when I was finished changing and stood in front of the sink to fix a small section of my hair, a white, middle-class-in-appearance, blond-haired woman walked in wearing the exact same coat as many of the female anti-choicers I had just finished picketing. I expected her to try to take my photo or confront me, but apparently she couldn’t recognize me. I guess they not only feel entitled to the street corner once they’ve made up their minds about demonstrating there, but also to abuse the privacy of anyone who disagrees with them, considering they appear to have followed me into the goddamned bathroom. Is this really a proportional response to someone finding out about your public demonstration before you showed up there that day? Your public demonstration.
Today I arrived in front of the church at 8:30 a.m. sharp. Having learned from last Sunday, I tied my skull face hanky around my hood instead of under it this time, and I wore an entire extra layer of coat and pants. I also made a new sign with much bolder text, and I used a different kind of plastic to seal it so that I wouldn’t destroy this one. It was starting to look like all this effort would be in vain until it started to pour while the parishioners were still in their 9 o’clock mass. People walked up and hugged me, put their hand on my shoulder (either that or lightly slugged me in the arm, I’m not entirely sure what they intended there), and someone offered to buy me a coffee. Someone took my picture during a brief intermission from the rain. Quite a few people honked, waved, gave me a thumbs up, laughed, and nodded from their cars. Especially men. Cops didn’t stop their cars or even slow down as they passed me today. I stayed until 12:30 p.m., waving at parishioners and holding up my sign to remind them why I was picketing their church as they exited the front door. And when I was done there, I finally secured a place to live again. I’m looking forward to next week already — my last week as a hidden homeless person.