E. Jonathan Hardy – “Standing his ground” surrounded by various groups protesting a concert by “uncle” Ted Nugent. Photo: Palin Smith
So, picture this: A private venue is about to have a concert. Ted Nugent is the headliner and it’s a rather small venue. Combine that with the irrational logic of many “professional” protesters. What does a bunch of firearms rights activists do? Do we stand buy and let this just “happen” or do we fight for what we feel is right? The answer, of course, is rather obvious.
We started the day early. We knew there was going to be a protest in the city. A group of folks had a petition, supposedly with close to 3,000 signatures to try to get the venue (Toad’s Place) to cancel the show. They really didn’t have any luck in that department. It was a private venue, and there was a large amount of tickets sold (eventually, during the protest, it was announced that the show was sold out). My partner in “justice” for the day was Ann Morse (no stranger to these sorts of things). We arrived around 2:00 PM, no protesters were there yet. So we stopped at the pizza shop next door, had lunch, and watched the media start to swarm on the venue.
It was really no go until a few hours later at around 6:45 or so when protesters started to arrive. I was told by a New Haven police officer that they were expecting them to arrive in a bus. How nice to have organizations pay to bring you to a protest. All our folks were just simple citizens that drove and parked on their own. I doubt the other side would have had the two dozen people they did if they did not have organized transportation.
Speaking of “organized” protest, let’s look at some of the groups (with very nice and professionally made signs) that were represented:
Answercoalition.org (organizers of the protest).
Party for Socialism and Liberation
There were also a few “sprinkled in” from various fronts like “Occupy New Haven, Occupy USA and a family from Newtown with a sign that said “NRA Kills Our Kids!”. Which I found funny, because the NRA has taught more child firearms safety classes with “Eddie Eagle” than any other organization, but I digress. Nothing like using your children to push an anti-NRA agenda.
There was the usual fanfare. The anti-rights crowd got there first. They tried to get people waiting in line (fans with tickets to the concert) to cause a scene, but failed miserably. New Haven police put a stop to that. I’d also have to commend them for doing such a great job. When our side just stood there, not raising our hands or anything, they flat out said “I’m doing my job, they aren’t doing anything” as the professional protesters tried to get us relocated. They did not like the fact that I started a movement to get closer and make their circle a little smaller. As long as we just took advantage of the opportunities presented, we weren’t going to be in any trouble.
They did get angrier that they lost a little real estate. I decided, I had it and was going to get right in their “area” and “stand my ground”. The picture above is myself, surrounded by them with the lone sign my friend Palin Smith made that said “Ted was right”. Some, did not like that and tried to engage (or enrage) me at this point. Tried to get into shouting matches or debates. I just stood there, talked with a couple, but kept a neutral look on my face. I listened to what they had to say, they had NO INTEREST in hearing me rebut, but so be it. There were a ton of media folks present and I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of causing a scene (kind of like we did in Newtown) One of them tried to get me agitated by saying “Ted was a draft dodger”. When I responded “what side would you be on 40 years ago? I’m sure you would protest the war that women weren’t drafted in, right?”. The confused look of silence was precious.
Sign posted down the street from “Toad’s Place” to “Smash Racism”.
I stayed in their area for some time, but I had to maneuver myself so I had something behind me. Both because of my situational awareness was going nuts, and because I am always armed (though I concealed carried here). Before I left, there was a “tussle” as the protesters didn’t want people to see my sign. They kept blocking my sign, so I would maneuver. I was tapped several times by their signs, which they were trying to do to get me frustrated or just make me leave. When I stepped forward, blocking their “circle”, they only had two choices: Stop their marching in circles, or go around me with my sign staying exposed. They went around me, begrudgingly. Being a “big guy” has it’s advantages.
After an hour of this, I decided it was time to join my fellow patriots on the side of the protest, my job was done. The rest of the event was rather uneventful except when they gathered in a circle, with a megaphone, and gave people a chance to talk. Once again, we were called racists and bigots. Many stopped short of calling us “crackers”. The intent was known, laughter erupted. One woman called me a racist. I let her know, I failed at that regard with my biracial son. However, I said “I love you too sister, and I’ll pray for you”. That caused a ton of confusion in her eyes to which she responded “I’ll pray for you too”.
My favorite chant of the evening:
Them: “What do you do when you’re under attack”
Us: “SHOOT BACK”!
They didn’t recycle that one much.
As firearms rights activists, we need to take the higher ground so we don’t get misrepresented by the media. I did this in Newtown when my friend Joshua Flashman and I protested the Bloomberg “Magical Misery Tour”, and did the same here. There was A LOT of media present. I specifically didn’t go to the concert so I can try my best to prevent the media from getting their “nuggets” of footage to try to discredit our cause. Keep in mind, when the media is present, always:
- Keep a straight face or smile Nothing confuses them more than gun rights folks in a good mood.
- If engaged by the opposition, simply “listen” to them. Don’t yell, shout or allow them to get you off your game. They are TRYING to get you to lose your cool in front of the media.
- Don’t engage the opposition. Watch your language and keep your cool. Like I said above about when they try to engage (or enrage) us, they look like the aggressor.
- Stand firm. We can be nice, but we don’t need to make them dictate the protest. Get there early so you get the best spot and defend it.
- Make sure you’re prepared for the “long haul”. Snacks and water are a must (especially on a hot day!).
- A camera, like the “GoPro” Hero on my head are a valuable tool. They not only help you record the event (especially if antagonized) and your dialogue, they come in handy when the media “misquotes” you down the road.