"I have my gun shirt on and i go support hobby lobby after i get more ammo at dicks sporting goods. Im a ammosexual and proud of it."
The week leading up to the Hobby Lobby Protest here in Rhode Island was a fast paced and very busy one. I spent more time on Facebook than I did organizing the event offline. Most of that time was spent eliminating the provocative and negative comments left by the trolls attempting to take control of the event page. Since I was committed to the idea of a positive, fun experience for all involved, I carefully deleted comments that went beyond sincere requests for information about the Hobby Lobby decision.
The comments I deleted were from people looking for an argument. The Internet is a big place, and if you want to argue about abortion, health care or Hobby Lobby, you will find a place to do it. But that place will not be on the event page for my event.
Still, I have to sleep sometime, like at 4am, which is when the comment I posted above showed up. The author, whose name and face I have removed, has a set of gun safes as his Facebook profile picture.
On his page, there is a picture of him carrying a rifle:
He is friends with Doreen Costa, a Rhode Island State Representative with a 92% legislative score from the National Rifle Association and with Ed Doyle,who heads up a gun rights group and is running for State Rep.
He lives in East Providence, a twenty minute drive from Hobby Lobby in Warwick.
And he said he was going to show up with ammunition to our Hobby Lobby Protest. Here's the full conversation (I have removed all identifying information from the posts, but I left the troll's gun locker picture to identify his words. It also seems that the troll deleted some of his comments before I was able to get a screenshot of them.)
Given the threatening nature of the troll's posting, on the morning of the Hobby Lobby Protest I called the police department in Warwick, Rhode Island, where the protest was going to take place, and told them that a man was threatening the safety of the protesters. The police promised to look into it and to have a police car near the event at all times.
On the advice of the Warwick Police, I filed a report of an online threat with the Providence Police as well, meaning that I was outside on my front lawn at 7:30am explaining to the cop all about the Hobby Lobby decision (of which he was unaware) and how Facebook works. The police officer was extremely polite while taking my report, and the Protest went off without a hitch, but...
I keep thinking about the troll, who in the middle of the night has nothing better to do than to threaten and antagonize the women on the event page. There is a small yet scary contingent of (mostly) men in this country who, motivated by a deep misogyny, feel the need to abuse people online, and when things don't go their way or when their small minded opinions aren't taken seriously enough, these men move easily into threats of violence, backed up with talk of guns and bullets.
I don't like threats. My niece, Jessica Ahlquist, and other members of my family (including me) received more than enough during the contretemps surrounding the the Cranston Prayer banner decision a few years ago. I've had enough threats for a lifetime. A cop in Cranston, discussing a threat against my niece, once told me that the written threats aren't the one's to worry about, these people are venting and usually harmless. It's the people who don't threaten but just act that we need to worry about. I didn't find the cop's words comforting, somehow.
Women's health care is under literal assault in this country from a full spectrum of misogyny: at one end is the loving hand of those theologies that tell women they are second class citizens and at the other end are those who would seek to enforce that second class status with guns.
Standing up to this assault, and calling for a full range of reproductive health care options to be made freely available to all women in consultation with her conscience and medical practitioner, or to call for reasonable limits on the ownership of guns, or to merely demand that the separation of church and state be respected by the government can be difficult. There are bullies out there looking to stomp all over your humanity.
But by standing together and not backing down, we can beat the bullies, and hold spectacular protests on beautiful days.
I ask you: Did I accurately represent what the troll on my event page said?