"One person's educational campus is another's civil disobedience."
LGBTQI Activists Arrested at Christian Conference
“One person's educational campus is another's civil disobedience.
The hotel and police made their choice.”
Orlando, FL, February 28, 2017 - Members of Soulforce, a social justice organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people by challenging the Religious Right, was arrested last night in an act of civil and spiritual disobedience at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Proclaim conference.
The NRB conference brings together several thousand Christian communicators and the businesses, like Facebook, that cater to them to discuss messaging strategies, media deregulation, and “religious liberty.”
The latter is a catch-all phrase for the anti-LGBTQI, Islamophobic, and anti-Woman rhetoric that the organization and its members espouse in countries around the world.
The police presence was intense throughout the day on Monday; security personnel and police worked together to track the Soulforce members as they simply walked from one part of the hotel to the other. A room change from a higher floor to a lower floor had to be approved by the manager.
Soulforce was processing peacefully outward from the hotel to public property around sunset while singing when a dozen police and security personnel descended upon them and formally declared them "trespassers."
D.J. and Alba refused to be processed to the trespassing notice behind closed doors.
The group was then escorted back inside the convention center to be photographed, so they raised the urgency and volume of their protest. Their singing grew louder, echoing in the rotunda, and they unfurled their banner reading "#KeepPulseAlive" for all guests and attendees to see.
“We came in singing, bearing our message and our cross with just a few of the hundreds of doves our members have decorated and sent us to be a part of our witness. The police actually brought us into greater tension with the attendees of the conference,” said D. J. Hudson, Soulforce’s Nonviolence and Direct Action consultant and one of two arrested this evening.
Supporters stopped to share their support and their grief at the NRB's presence in Orlando with the activists.
Soulforce holds that the NRB creates the environment where physical violence can fester, including the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando. NRB’s code of ethics and statement of faith focus primarily on, and are hostile towards, homosexuality, transgender people, and sex.
While most of the protestors were escorted off site by police, two remained, Rev. Alba Onofrio and D.J. Hudson. They held onto a cross covered in doves and chanted, "No justice! No peace!" as police placed them in handcuffs.
“I am called to honor the death of our ancestors and fight like hell for the living. The NRB offers a death-dealing theology that is at the very foundation of white supremacy, Islamophobia, and patriarchy. It is my Christian duty to fight evil and expose false prophets,” said Rev. Alba Onofrio of Soulforce.
The group had many more strategies for getting their message out for the rest of the week, strategies they will now adapt for implementation after being banned from the World Center Marriott.
More information about the campaign can be found at: www.soulforce.org/keeppulsealive and #KeepPulseAlive.
For any questions or more information, please contact Soulforce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from religious and political oppression through spiritual healing, radical political analysis, and strategic direct action. For more information, go to Soulforce.org.