January 20, 2009 was an historic day.
What history will say about today, no one knows yet. But, if we can take Barrack Obama at his word, it will be bad. And while so much of the world celebrated, and laughed, screamed, cried for joy and danced today, I wished to register protest, even if it was a small effort. Asheville Pizza and Brewing (APB) threw an inauguration party at both of its locations, showing the events in Washington live, and outside on the public sidewalk I stood with two CHANGE signs along with a friend, Deborah. A CHANGE sign is a CHOICE sign, but changed, a few letters changed. Below the word CHANGE is a large gruesome color image of an aborted baby, which reflects Obama’s policy on abortion.
We showed up just before 11:00 AM. The parking lot was full and not long after a representative of APB, a young man, came out to tell us that we can’t stand in front of his restaurant, that we would have to leave. Can’t? I asked him more or less what strength there was in that word. We were standing on a public sidewalk. Next another man came out saying that he was the owner of APB. He took a similar approach saying that we Couldn’t stand out there. I became impatient with this and said simply, Call the police. He said that the police would make us leave and I told him I had been through this sort of thing 50 times. When I later told one of my daughters this, she said, “More like 200.”
Until the time when the police arrived the two men berated us and tried to block our signs. I held mine high in the air, so that it could be seen. The owner said that I showed a bloody picture because I was incapable of rational discourse. It is interesting that the owner said that he did not support Obama and the young man said that he was opposed to abortion, really opposed and not just Pro-Choice-Opposed. They said that they would have thrown a party if McCain had won. I said in reply to this that they were making money from Obama enthusiasm and the free publicity they received in the news. They berated us for being hypocrites who were insensitive to children. “Would Jesus hold up a picture of a bloody fetus?” the owner asked, however he did not seem to wish to dialog and to hear my persistent answer that Jesus was the bloody picture, only it seemed that he wished to argue us into leaving. He admitted that he was concerned about his business, that revenues were down 60%.
When a police officer arrived, he did not make us leave or arrest as the APB guys promised. I knew the officer wouldn’t, of course. He just told us to be nice. When the officer was there, someone with what appeared to be a commercial television camera took some pictures. It might have been WLOS. The owner told us officially not to trespass by stepping onto his pavement. I asked him if we could step backwards occasionally to clear the view so drivers could exit his parking lot safely and he said No. I then said that if there was an accident resulting, it would be his responsibility. He denied this and said it would be our fault.
Well, we gave and took verbal jabs for awhile. The owner made a deal about his incomplete understanding (based on a false premise-it‘s complicated) about whether or not or when we would show these pictures to people in our churches. He said that he went to St Eugene Catholic and that he had called to priest there to ask him to come down to talk with us.. I asked the owner if he had ever come with other Catholics to the abortion place to pray, a place six blocks from his business where they slaughtered children. (He hadn’t) He called me a false prophet and likened us to people who protest at military funerals and claim that the soldiers died because homosexual acting people serve in the military.
Another issue was that some of the people driving out of the APB parking lot had to look around us to see if the coast was clear. Deborah and I were trying to get into a routine of moving the signs into a position to allow a clearer view. But this was hard because the men were distracting us by their belligerent conversation. A car was leaving and I told Deborah. In the process of moving her sign back, she stepped back one foot onto the asphalt parking surface. Immediately the owner said that he would charge her with trespassing. Said that he and his buddy both were witnesses. But, he said, he wouldn’t charge her if “you” left. I was a bit angry at this, but I was protective of Deborah and said that she should leave if she wished. The owner said that we BOTH had to leave. I said, “You can forget that.” He said that he would have her arrested anyway, if I didn’t leave. I told him that he’d have to swear out a warrant, since Deborah was leaving and then he followed Deborah as she walked away and I now held the two signs, as they rested on the ground. I called out to the owner and said that if he pressed trespass charges we would “be out there a lot” with the pictures in front of APB, AND in front of St. Eugene Catholic Church on a Sunday morning. Then I told the APB young man that he would have to prove that he owned the one foot of pavement next to the sidewalk since the right of way may extend into the lot. He said that he had “blueprints.”
What happened next was sort of funny, as in unexpected. I saw Deborah kneeling on the sidewalk about 50 feet away, praying. I assumed that she was scared of being charged with trespass, but as it turned out this wasn’t the case. She had simply left the sidewalk in front of APB. The owner was kneeling in front of her with his hand on her shoulder. He appeared to be praying too. After awhile they both came back and he said that she could hold the sign now and that they wouldn’t press charges. The owner said that he sort of admired us. He said that his main worry was his business, that so many restaurants in Asheville were closing down. I told him that my kids watched movies there a lot and that we (adults) enjoyed a big jug of his beer during Christmas. Then they left. We stayed until 12:30 PM , another half hour, and then left as we had planned.
I don’t really know why the APB guys left as they did. Maybe they were just playing games with us, to try to make us leave, or maybe they were over-reacting and it took a while for them to calm down. Maybe they were afraid of more picketing. (After talking with Deborah later, I thought that it could have been that the owner was moved by her prayer and tears. The younger man brought her hot coffee. It was very cold and breezy.) I felt a little bad for trying to engage in give and take with them. Normally when someone is so hostile and unfair, I prefer to be silent.
This above will be my memory of this supposed historic day. I’m writing this as the Inauguration March is being broadcasted over the TV beside me. If it becomes a day of regret for our nation remains to be seen. It could be the beginning of a terrible catastrophe.
Post Script: I just watched the WLOS coverage of the party at APB and they interviewed a bunch of children at the Coxe Avenue restaurant. Then they showed a clip of us in front of the Merrimon Avenue place. Originally I had scheduled to be at Coxe Avenue, but I changed it at the last moment partly so we wouldn’t be confronting children (as they were out of school today) when they walked in. Merrimon was a drive-in location. WLOS censored-by-scrambling the image of the aborted baby. They did have me holding up the sign facing away while on the back the words “Stop War Against Pre-born Children!” were quite visible. So many people at the inauguration said that they were pleased to be there on this historic day. I am glad that we were "there" raising a small voice of objection.