Allies bear witness to hateful anti-LGBTQ protesters
As we continue to honor the hard work, steadfast determination, and tireless voices of anti-homophobic activists, I asked for some “silent” allies to share their experiences. In the NSVRC’s own backyard, organizers known as the Silent Witness Peacekeepers Alliance provide a peaceful, non-violent, and affirming barrier between attendees at pro-LGBTQ events and hateful protesters in central Pennsylvania. I asked a few friendly Witnesses to share some insight into the Alliance, their motivations, and the value of the work they do. See the responses below:
What is Silent Witness and why is it necessary?
“Silent Witness is a non-confrontational peacekeeping group that volunteers at Susquehanna Valley LGBTQ events. Peacekeepers form a human buffer between anti-LGBTQ protesters and event attendees. Peacekeepers also attempt to de-escalate hostile confrontations between protesters and attendees so that events remain safe and peaceful."
"Silent Witness serves an important purpose for several reasons. First, it helps LGBTQ events address the psychological violence of protesters in a nonviolent, non-confrontational manner. Also, Silent Witness sends a message that homophobia is to be rejected peacefully.”
How long have you served as a Silent Witness?
“Two years. My first event as a Silent Witness Peacekeeper was the 2010 Reading Pride Festival.”
What attracted you to this type of peaceful barrier building?
“I was disgusted by the bigotry of anti-LGBTQ protesters and wanted to show support for the LGBTQ community.”
“I wanted to support my friends and family, as well as the LGBTQ community as a whole, to live in a peaceful environment without fear.”
Can you share about a time when you found your witnessing to be most rewarding?
“Two moments were especially rewarding for me. The first was at a Harrisburg Pride festival when Silent Witness Peacekeepers were stationed at the north and south gates. An anti-gay protester with a homophobic sign began preaching at the north gate, only to be quickly surrounded by about eight peacekeepers with rainbow umbrellas. The sight of him shouting among all the rainbow umbrellas amused me, but more importantly, it sent a message to attendees that they had protection from his hateful words."
"The second was when Silent Witness Peacekeepers marched in the 2010 Harrisburg Pride parade. As several dozen peacekeepers marched down Front street, onlookers applauded … and just kept applauding! Amidst all the applause and cheers, I realized how much our peacekeeping must have meant to all these people. I think it really hit me at that moment what a difference we were making.”