Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Hi all, I’m back from the Dracut equal-rights counter rally. Sorry it took a while to post, but I had some stuff to do. I do have a few things to report.
First, for the pledge drive, the total number of minutes Phelps’ people stood in Lowell and Dracut on both days was 120 minutes, or 2 hours. They were there an hour and a half yesterday, and only a half hour today. For my final count, we got a total of about $5.05 per minute in pledges, or a total of $606.00 in funds raised for MassEqality, GLAD, and other gay rights groups. [Update: The sign had a higher number than that, mostly because some people gave flat cash donations and it had to be calculated on the fly.] Way to go guys! You are amazing. I will be emailing everyone whose information I have to remind you what you pledged. I will also post a follow-up diary at DailyKos.com.
[Update: Yay! Susan, a sign-maker and person extrordinare, has sent me a link to her two galleries with photos from both rallies.}
Now, for the events of the morning…did anyone else feel like the police and officials were a little too paranoid? It was like a police convention on the street in front of the Englesby School. Obviously, they didn’t know how many would come out on both sides (no more than 15 on their side, and that’s being generous, and I swear - it was at least 70 people on our side). But they had enough police force there to wrangle a Fenway-full mob there. I saw Lowell police, and someone else mentioned spotting Bedford uniforms! I have to wonder how many towns’ worth of police force were pulled in, if Bedford was invited.
Second, they cut off traffic on Lakeview Ave, which in my opinion, was a little much, and also prevented us from being seen by the public. But I suppose they were erring on the side of caution, even if it was unnecessary.
The pro-equal-rights crowd was amazing. High schoolers from Dracut High were abundantly in evidence, and there were quite a few parents of Englesby students. Most of us arrived long before the Phelps crowd, and got to watch as the police escorted them to their area - via the school grounds! That could have been planned better. I’m sure they were happy to march past the school’s windows, but if they were interested in not having school disrupted (and that was what they said), they certainly screwed the pooch on that one. Between the squadron of motorcycle cops, cutting off traffic, and marching the hate crowd near the school, they pretty much garnered as much attention as possible on today’s events.
A small crowd gathered across the street - I’m guessing people who work in the small businesses there. News Channel 5 had a van on site, as did NECN. The Dracut Dispatch and the Lowell Sun were also there (no article yet, here’s one from yesterday though). Here’s a web articleaccount from Channel 5. This is the part I find ridiculous:
Lakeside Avenue in Dracut was shut down while 90 police officers kept guard.
“I had SWAT on standby. I had 30 units. I had 12 to 14 mountain bike officers, plus I had a compliment of 37 of my officers,” Dracut Police Department Chief Kevin Richardson said.
30 units? 37 officers? Can we say, overzealous? Not to mention, we were not allowed to walk down the sidewalk to get in view of the street barricade. From what I remember about most loitering laws, one is allowed to protest on sidewalks so long as one keeps moving. I mentioned this to an officer but got no sympathy. I got the impression they were there to keep the whole thing as quiet and out-of-the-way as possible. One kid told me she got yelled at for stepping off the sidewalk and over the white line (of the side of the road). Considering there were no cars on the road, what was the point of that?
And here’s NECN’s broadcast (I can’t link direct to the video so you may be scrolling after a little while).
On some level, I can see the point of those who didn’t want to make a big deal of their visit - because they love just getting the opportunity to spout hate on TV. I wonder though; would they still have gotten interviewed if there were no counter-protests? It’s possible, but there would be no opposite viewpoint given. And that would be unfortunate.
Once the Phelps people were finished with their little demonstration, the police escorted them back down the middle of the empty street (so why did they have to come in via the school grounds, again?) and we all turned our back on them and sang, “na-na-na na, na-na-na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!” A little impromptu farewell to Kansas, in the hope they stay the hell away from the Lowell area from now on.
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