Well, Truth* Academy 2011 is over.
I was outside protesting for part of both days in Dublin, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus), and I can tell you that based on the number of cars in the parking lot, attendance inside was abysmal.
Before we get to that, let’s start out with how much people were paying to get into Peter LaBarbera‘s Anti-Gay Circus. Originally, the general public cost was $75 by March 26/$99 thereafter. That discount rate was later extended to 12 hours before the start of the event.
Of course, all of that went out the window if you were a pastor or a student, in which case you paid only $25. It also went out the window if you were one of the host church’s members. Some blessed soul pointed this out after she saw it in the Discover Christian Church‘s March 16 newsletter:
Important Conference at DCC:
“The ‘Hate’ Labeling of Christiansâ€” Why it’s Happening and What We Can Do,” co-sponsored by Mission America (headed by Linda Harvey, DCC member and talk show host on WRFD AM). […] Cost is only $25 per person if you reserve by March 26!
So let’s try to figure how many people were willing to pay $25 for a two day conference with the Religious Right’s Finest. There weren’t any moles that we know of this year (there were at least six in 2010), so we’re going to have to work off of rough estimates and a bit of informed speculation instead of a direct head count.
There were 17 vehicles in the parking lot when I arrived on Friday as registration was set to open, and only a few more came in before we left at 3:00. On Saturday, I counted 25 vehicles before the Truth* Academy lunch break, so let’s fix the number of vehicles at 25 on both days.
At least two of those were the vehicles of police officers. At least three cars (I’m assuming they carpooled to and from the airport) were used to get the seven instructors around. Figure another three for non-attending church employees preparing for Sunday morning or there in case of an emergency at the event.
That leaves us with 17 vehicles for paying attendees. Assuming half of them arrived with two paying attendees, that would put paid attendance at an extremely generous estimation of 25, even with 75% discounts for local attendees and the prime audience, and a 25% discount for everybody else.
I’m not even sure it was that high, to be honest. When they took a break for “eat on your own” lunch on Saturday, most of the vehicles didn’t leave the parking lot, leaving me to wonder if they were unrelated to the event. Of the few that did leave, only one had more than one person in it. I suppose most people could have brown-bagged it, but I really doubt it.
Also, one who purported to know told me that the ratio of police officers to attendees was near 1:1. Even though there were three police cars, a K-9 unit, one van, and a paddy wagon, that still equals not many people. (The Dublin police were fantastic, by the way.)
Honest to God, I wonder if they even got into double digits.
Meanwhile, the LGBT community was working the sidewalk outside. GetEqual Ohio hadn’t planned on any action on Friday, but when local activist Gwen Andrix decided to go with her spouse, I agreed to join them, and GetEqual Ohio lead organizer Thomas Morgan made four.
We had lots of passing gawkers (yay!) and honkers (BIGGER YAY!), and five or six people stopped to ask what was going on (ZOMG YAY WITH BOLD FOR EFFECT!!!). One person came back to tell us how heartbroken (her word) she was over what the church was doing.
LaBarbera and crew never came out to greet us, but his cameraman made multiple trips outside to take our picture. He even recorded some video from across the street with a weird grin on his face the whole time.
Can’t wait to see what LaBarbera makes out of the footage. I wonder if he’ll have O Fortuna playing while I’m on screen. That’d be pretty cool.
If you look real close at the first picture up there, you can just barely see me on the left behind the man with two dogs. I was having a “spirited exchange” with the one person (khaki jacket) who came outside to hassle us. I can’t quite place him, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before, and he said he knows Matt Barber.
This guy…Ugh. One of those “I’ll just keep asking questions and hope you mess up” guys that ends every sentence with “…don’t you agree?” I think he was surprised to find someone who can debate scripture and knows that indulging in it for very long is pointless. He reminded me of an online troll.
The best part was when I tried to extricate myself from the situation and he refused to stop. At one point I was literally counting to him the number of times I’d asked him to stop while he just kept talking over me. And when he finally stopped (eight requests, by the way) following me around, he cornered another group for a good 30-45 minutes.
Note to young activists: As I’ve said before, dealing with his type is futile. It’s a waste of your time and always ends the same way. This type of person has done considerable damage to our community, and you deserve better than to be disrespected in this way.
Other than that, we had a good two days on the sidewalk. The number of young activists on the scene was so encouraging, as was the response of the local community.
My favorite moment? This one, hands down:
(Photos courtesy Gwendolyn Andrix)