It’s that time of year again! When Pagan Pride Festivals and open rituals start popping up in our communities, and with them all the problems of being pagan in public. In light of the protesters visiting Nashville’s Pagan Pride day I thought it would be fitting to give some advice on how to still enjoy your day out with fellow pagans while protesters try to ruin it. These suggestions are for attendees and not organizers and I do encourage all to follow the rules set forth by the event coordinators, but sometimes everyone is following the rules and there are still gray areas on how to deal with these issues.
- A majority of the time protesters will not be allowed into the event or will set up “shop” at the front entrance to discourage attendees from entering. For the protesters, this tactic can be very effective, especially on people who would be coming to their first event. As an attendee of a Pagan event, the best way to handle this type of protest is to walk by without acknowledging the protest. I suggest eyes down, ears closed till you get into the event or the sign-in table. If the protesters signal you out, physically touch you, or otherwise make your entrance difficult inform organizers, police, or event/ venue staff as quickly and calmly as possible.
- Sometimes, with open public events, protesters are able to walk in an attempt to disturb the event from the inside. This can be the most difficult time when dealing with protesters; since they are not just using volume to disrupt but their persons. As with the Nashville Pagan Pride, these protesters could also videotape their actions. If you are “in the broom-closet” this can be terrifying. I do want to take a moment and remind you that in some cases when going to an event you are giving permission to be photographed or videotaped. Before going to an event check their rules to be sure this is explained for the event its self. When done for the event or vendors they normally ask before the picture is taken and give you a chance to move. However, when the protesters are videotaping it is best to just turn your back and let them pass by. You can find the video the Nashville protesters posted online and see individuals that can be identified are clearly standing in front of the protest. Other attendees are not identifiable. I would not suggest going up to them to engage or trying to impend traffic through the event.
- When protesters become verbally or physically violent the best thing for an attendee to do is to get out of the way. Let the police handle the assault and give a clear and calm description of what you witnessed when asked by police or organizers. If you were involved or saw what happened to stay at the event to give your account. Help injured or angered friend remain calm and walk a safe distance away from the altercation. Do not describe parties involved by religion or group when giving police statements. Describe by the apprentice from foot to head. If people fled or left this is extremely important for police follow up as they can get group names from people involved in the groups but not always personal descriptions. Remember in the aftermath most parties are going to protect their own. This includes lying about who started what and who was involved. If you give a clear, impartial, and honest statement you will be presenting the event well and help police better investigate and prepare for next year.
- When you see a person you know involved in the protest do not walk up to the individual or engage with them later on the issue. Maintain distance and if they notice you be polite and do not confirm your reason for presence. This is especially important if you know this person from your place of employment. Say hello, it was nice to see you, then move on. If this person later attempts to reveal your presence at the event you can then go to your HR department and honestly state you never confirmed or denied your involvement in the event while reporting the inappropriate workplace behavior.
Most importantly while attending a Pagan event remember you are representing all attendees, the event its self, and Pagans. The best way to do so is with positivity and light. When our events end up on the news because of protest mainstream media will take anything to make Neo-Paganism look bad. So don’t be the one to give them fuel, only give them the story of protesters came and were handled by the appropriate authorities or left out of boredom. Have a fun and safe festival season!
Do you have any stories about protesters at a pagan event?
As always please feel free to comment and share! If you have any questions or wish to get in contact with me please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org