Spectators largely ignore anti-gay protestors; police arrest, ticket Kingdom Baptist members for disorderly conduct
Tammye Nash | Senior Editor
FORT WORTH — Organizers of the 30th annual Tarrant County Gay Pride celebration said this week that the events were a rousing success, despite the presence of a relatively small but loud contingent anti-gay protestors at the Oct. 1 Pride parade.
This year the parade was moved from its traditional three block route down South Jennings Street to a seven block stretch of Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. And Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association President Daune Littlefield said she was pleased by the number of spectators who turned out.
“I saw people lining both sides of the street for all seven blocks of the parade route,” Littlefield said. “I know there were definitely more people there than in previous years. I’d say we had maybe three times as many people at the parade as last year. We will definitely be bringing the parade back downtown again next year.”
Littlefield acknowledged that “there were a few glitches” in the parade and the street festival that followed on Main Street near the Fort Worth Convention Center. But she said, “I guess that was to be expected since this was our first year to hold the parade downtown. Next year, it will go even more smoothly.”
Although the Pride Week association had to raise more money to cover the higher costs of moving the parade downtown this year, Littlefield said organizers still came out ahead.
“Money-wise, it was a real success,” she said. “We paid for everything, and we still have money left over, seed money for next year’s event and money for the scholarship fund.
We made a commitment to the community in moving the parade and expanding our celebration that we would create this scholarship to give back to the community. And we will follow through on that commitment no matter what,” Littlefield said.
Littlefield also said that the annual Pride Picnic in Trinity Park — Tarrant County’s original Pride event and long considered its most popular and most successful Pride event — also went off “without a hitch.”
“We had more people there than last year. We usually have around 2,500 people at the parade and this year, I’d say we had at least 3,000,” Littlefield said. “The weather was fantastic and the event was just phenomenal. There was no ruckus, no problem anywhere.”
Littlefield said that she was pleased that spectators there for the parade for the most part ignored the anti-gay protestors, at least some of whom were reportedly with Kingdom Baptist Church, a small congregation out of Venus led by Pastor Joey Faust.
“I was on a float at the end of the parade, and as we moved down the parade route, the protestors kind of moved along with us, shouting nasty things through their bullhorn,” Littlefield said. “But we would just start cheering and yelling, and the crowd would cheer and yell with us to drown them out. I was really glad to see that everybody just ignored them and didn’t engage with them, for the most part.”
Faust and other Kingdom Baptist members also staged protests outside Fort Worth City Hall two years ago during a meeting in which the City Council approved the addition of transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Faust and his followers also confronted activists during demonstrations staged in Fort Worth by Queer LiberAction in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.
And prior to the Pride parade, Faust sent an open letter, addressed to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, to area media outlets castigating Price for participating in the parade as one of three grand marshals.
At the end of the parade, the protestors — who had started out standing on Main Street near the Weatherford Street intersection where the parade started — moved down Main
Street to position themselves near the Convention Center in the area near where the street festival was being held. Using a bullhorn, the protestors continued to harangue festival attendees, at one point calling those attending the parade “wild dogs” and “wild animals” who were “parading their perversions in the street,” until Fort Worth police officers ordered them to leave.
Littlefield said she was told that three of the protestors were arrested and another 10 ticketed. But FWPD’s LGBT Liaison Officer Kellie Whitehead said that only two of the protestors were “cash bonded” for disorderly conduct because they were using offensive language over the bullhorns.
Being “cash bonded,” Whitehead explained, means that person arrested on a Class C misdemeanor offense has to pay a set fine, or a portion of that fine, before they are released.
She said her superiors instructed her not to release the names of those arrested, but Whitehead did say she believes those arrested were members of Kingdom Baptist.
Littlefield said she had heard complaints from several people who were upset that the protestors were allowed to stand at the edge of the street festival after the parade for so long — about an hour and a half, she estimated — and harass those attending the event before police forced them to move.
“That’s something we will talk to the police about for next year,” Littlefield said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.