July 23, 2010
(Arisha just sent this report in to us from the National Organization for Marriage tour event that just got underway in Columbus, Ohio. We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with new information, so keep coming back and refreshing to see the latest news. Meanwhile, we are working on posting something later as well about developments around the Maryland incident in which Jethro Rothe-Kushel, Courage’s videographer, was threatened with arrest by a police officer, after being asked by NOM to remove Jethro from a public space. — Eden James).
By Arisha Michelle Hatch
Five minutes after NOM’s rally was supposed to start in Columbus, Ohio and Brian Brown has once again failed to assemble a crowd.
I count about 23 NOM supporters (I’m being generous) and — on the equality side — approximately 71 grassroots marriage equality supporters assembled in bright colors, waving signs saying, chanting and blowing whistles just outside the blockade that NOM has set out.
Equality activists are now chanting “2, 4, 6, 8, time for you to leave the state.”
No sight of Brian Brown yet.
Despite NOM’s dwindling attendance numbers, security is much stronger at this venue than it has been at any other tour stop. Approximately 10 police officers on horses are surrounding the venue and there are approximately 5 other uniformed police officers surrounding the space. And there are blockades.
Equality Ohio is hosting a press conference at Trinity Church currently with the rally.
Despite the blockades, we are filming all the footage we can.
Mally Gallagher speaking now.
Stay tuned for more updates.
UPDATE 12:22 PM EDT – We’re working to confirm, but a source says that Brian Brown has flown to California and is no longer on tour. We’re not sure yet if this is a permanent or pre-planned.
Where are you, Brian?
UPDATE 12:33 PM EDT – A gay couple pushing a stroller just walked from the beyond the blockade directly into NOM’s rally to stand. At least two couples followed them. The crowd from beyond the blockade yelled their support. They’re now being approached by Ohio police.
UPDATE BY EDEN: This just in via another source: “Breaking news from Thomas Equality Morgan at the NOM Columbus OH rally: 1 arrest so far. She entered THEIR territory”
UPDATE BY EDEN: Pictures coming in from our team.
Cops on horseback, apparently protecting NOM’s tour bus from equality activists. Intimidation much?
Yes, that is the NOM podium in the background (on the steps):
Meanwhile, here’s the turnout on the equality side, behind the blockades:
UPDATE BY ARISHA (2:24 PM EDT):
One equality activist was arrested in an otherwise incident-free rally in Columbus, that –- at its peak –- was attended by more than 120 equality organizers and less than 30 NOM supporters.
The grassroots equality counter-rally, organized by Ohio activists Thomas Morgan and Rev. Michael Hunt, was well-attended, as word was spread through social media. With the exception of the incident above, protesters stayed behind the blockades set up by the Ohio police.
“We tried to tell everyone not to engage,” Morgan said. “This was not our day to get in the face of the anti-gay establishment. We just wanted a presence because they’re in our town.”
“When I posted the event on Facebook, I wasn’t sure if we’d be the only two people here,” continued Hunt. “This [counter-rally] was a rousing success and it totally exceeded our expectations.”
Brian Brown, on the other hand, is apparently taking a break from the tour.
Stay tuned for video footage later, including interviews with the two loving couples who walked beyond the blockades and an anti-equality supporter and his 5 homeschooled sons confronting a group of equality activists.
UPDATE BY EDEN: NOM has posted pictures from their Flickr page:
Here is NOM’s picture of the marriage equality counter-rally, behind the blockades:
You can also check out the NOMTourTracker.com Flickr stream (hosted by Courage Campaign Equality).
UPDATE BY EDEN: NOM’s take on what happened:
Protestors in Columbus
As anticipated, opposition protesters showed up this morning. Afraid even of allowing NOM’s message to be heard, they tried to shout and whistle over the speakers. The civil discourse of our speakers was met with shouted obscenities, lewd gestures, and yells of ‘liar’.
One woman, before she was escorted out of the rally by police, went through the crowd offering her hand to NOM supporters before ripping it away and cursing in their faces.
Unlike in Providence, police here are keeping order, even having mounted police onsite in the background
UPDATE BY EDEN: In the comments, BradK just pwned NOM with this photoshopped blockade pic:
The original photo, taken by Courage’s Arisha Hatch:
UPDATE BY EDEN: Andy Kelley, Courage’s New Media Organizer just tweeted the following:
RT @EqualityOnTrial Where in the world is Brian Brown? Cops on horses but Brian Brown missing at #NOMTour event in Ohio http://bit.ly/9lMepR
So, where is Brian? Tweet it and spread the word. Given the ingenuity of the Tracker community, I wouldn’t be surprised if the information flowed out of your crowd-sourcing in the comments.
UPDATE BY EDEN: Arisha Michelle Hatch, our NOMTourTracker.com lead, met Maggie Gallagher, a founder of NOM, today. We’ve got video of their first encounter.
Why was Maggie in Columbus today? To take over for Brian Brown, at least from what she said.
Money quote: “I’m not Brian’s keeper.”
What do you think? Was this just a regularly scheduled change in the speaker schedule on the NOM tour? Or is Brian Brown’s failure to execute on this tour — from the #NOMturnoutFAIL to the threatened arrest of our videographer — becoming a political problem that only Maggie can solve, by mere virtue of changing the face in front of our camera?
Meanwhile, any of you Trackers have photoshopping skills? Andy Kelley, our New Media Organizer, just had a few visual “Where is Brian Brown” brainstorms:
1) “Lost Cat” poster
2) “MISSING” milk carton
3) “Where in the World is Brian Brown?”
Have some fun (within reason, of course) in the comments and we’ll post our favorite image to our Testimony: Equality on Trial facebook page!
UPDATE BY EDEN: This will be the last update in this thread. I just posted a new thread with videos from today, including the Maggie Gallagher update above.