Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights, Friday, Halloween (October 31st) 2008

Friday again, and we’re out on the Ave. Since I get a ride down there with the ASU Secular Free Thought Society I am getting a lot more of a view of their activity on Mill and less of other areas that have been hotspots. Of course, Halloween isn’t exactly the hype of local culture—but it is a good place to find various clashes.

Tonight’s episode involves a local extremely vocal group who come from The Door—a highly insular Christian outcrop who appear to use cultish and brute behavior to silence and bully critics and detractors who are attracted to their extremely prominent and disruptive demonstrations. I will be documenting some of their bad behavior here while attempting to reflect the activity that they brought to Mill Avenue tonight.

Is it just me or is this starting to feel a lot like Discovery Channel’s Meercat Manor?

Preachers: The Door

Around 7pm there wasn’t much in the way of crowds to see. Just the odd scattering of costumes amidst the normal Mill Ave bounce-about types. A band whose music wasn’t half bad set up in front of Urban Outfitters and would play for the rest of the night. They come up obliquely because the Door demonstrators set up in front of Coffee Plantation—a location normally off-limits to noisy and disruptive people—which is directly kitty-corner from Urban Outfitters. We discovered them as they had laid down wooden crosses in front of Coffee Plant early on to stake out their territory.

The SFTS decided that they would set up in front of the Post Office. The purpose of which I would later learn was to direct their efforts to provide a counterpoint to the Door’s operations that night. Apparently anticipating the antics of that group ahead of time. When everyone arrived there a trumpeter already had a small boosted set up and was playing there. He eventually turned out to be a preacher from the Door who’s purpose was to act as a forward scout. The Door apparently also anticipated the intersession of the SFTS and have modified their tactics accordingly.

I received a pamphlet from them espousing some Christian mythology. For the most part it was a mundane recital of their less-interesting elemental prose from their mythos book; most of these pamphlets are creative and clever in their presentation but generally unimaginative in their delivery or choice of how to frame their lore. However, an odd linguistic quirk in the text did catch my eye.

Buried in the prose there was the ubiquitous mention of people being sent to Hell (part of the Christian mythos afterworld) except that it didn’t have a capital “H.” A mistake by a copy editor? Over the years Hell has lost its capital “h” when written in ordinary text, but generally only when it is used as an explicative or injective, like “The hell if I know!” or “The hell with it!” But I think that if Hell is being used to refer to a place it is therefore a proper noun, and there are no proper nouns that we don’t capitalize the first letter. It’s weirdly telling that this word so breaks English conventions for these people.

At around 8:50pm we had a visitation by an obvious demonstration from the Door. Along came an effigy of Jesus, dragging a cross, and two apparently Roman Centurions with whips. The costume was pretty grotesque, which is a good thing for Halloween, and the multiple actors did make the demonstration pretty interesting. I wonder if we can get other individuals to put together performance art pieces like the Door does; but to more educational end. There were at least three effigies wandering down Mill, the Centurions had whips—and even assaulted Rocco from the SFTS with a whip, but I have not substantiated the when/how/why.

Around 9:45pm an altercation happened at the Door demonstration site that summoned the police. I had been warned by members of the SFTS that the Door demonstrators had a tendency to physically assault people and then call the police—so I came with the expectation of seeing something. The Halloween crowds were likely to have at least one drunken individual who would fall for this sort of bait.

A man with really blue hair and a nicely done retro-affect decided to shout and yell along with their demonstration. The tactics used to control him mostly involved standing in his face, getting in his way, pressing up against behind him to corral him. One more than one occasion elbows were used to strike him in the sides or stomach—a behavior which he shouted out as he would charge them with assault for. Several extremely barrel chested individuals would deliberately block the view of video cameras while others harassed the blue-haired man.

Eventually the police were summoned by the Door after they shoved the blue-haired man and then manhandled him around their demonstration. It was really hard to tell who was inciting whom in the mess, but watching the behavior of the people from the Door it is very difficult to give them any doubt to benefit from; for the most part they’d riled their blood to the point that they were culpable in what happened. Deliberately blocking video cameras filming also puts a black mark on them—these are not the acts of civil people.

According to Jordan from the SFTS allegations were made, and then proven to be outright lies by film evidence from three different sources that were variously blocked and unblocked during times of the scuffle. After the police arrived and spoke with them man he went on his merry way—but it certainly didn’t raise my opinion of the Door demonstrators that they made false statements to the police about the blue-haired man, attempted to cover up their own bad acts by occluding cameras, and general bellicosity.

This sort of behavior is dangerous to the health of the Ave.

They had quite a show involving reciting elements of various stories from the Bible. Three crosses with three people who hung on them, the Jesus effigy wept and shouted quotes. The Centurions called out asking what to do with him… Standard fare. Hecklers were inserted in the crowds readily enough from the some forty people present.

In closing, I didn’t get a chance to talk to many of the Door individuals from the demonstration; when they behave in this manner they rile themselves up and aren’t interested in actual dialogue. For the most part, I discovered them belligerent, presenting themselves with a spume of disrespectful questions and then when they didn’t get answers they liked from me attempted to batter me with religious rhetoric from their mythology. Those whom I asked questions of to determine the affiliation or why they were on Mill (my standard fare) quickly gave up under interview or refused to answer me after I tried to honestly answer their questions.

One individual in particular (who after attempting to ask me a series of personal questions) then went on to refuse a copy of my newest Mill Avenue Vexations story because he “Didn’t want to have to read it.” It strikes me as grossly disrespectful of other people to approach them with pretences of shouting them down, asking them questions, and then offering nothing in return—for the most part this individual behaved was entitled to abuse my time but not respect me for it.

The words he used reminded me of another individual from Extremely Prophetic who said the exact same thing when I tried to give him one of my books! Surely, people are welcome to refuse my offerings, I have no problem with them; but this is a very odd response.

Preachers Halloween

A great deal of the time I find them out making anti-Halloween messages. This time: Nothing. Only the Centurions abusing the effigies and that’s about it.


The crowds disoriented me a lot more than I expected but there were quite a few out. The vast majority of popular costume happened to be, as expected, The Joker from the new Batman movies. I spotted at least three Benders, from the cartoon Futurama. The rest were a scattering of more standard archetypes from zombies, dark hooded, and various applications of profession uniforms.

One highlight, which amused me, was at least two Doctor Horrible costumes. And at least one person had a girl with him dressed as Penny.


Pfew. Okay that’s enough for now. I have many more notes from last night, but this is the limit of my energy at the moment. If anyone else has thoughts on what happened please feel free to speak up.

And I’m sorry that the Door stuff dominates this discussion, it actually received very little time in my notes; but it was an event that really needs to be handed to the public because, really, this sort of behavior is uncivil and unhealthy.

Have a good night everyone. Anthropologist out.

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