For the fifth year now TFP Student Action volunteers went to Fort Benning, Georgia. The purpose of the trip was twofold: To rally support for our troops and oppose the leftist SOA Watch protest called “Occupy Fort Benning.”
Rally for the Troops
On Friday morning, November 18, we kicked off our first rally for the troops on Broadway, downtown Columbus. With a banner inscribed with “God bless our troops!” and signs encouraging passing cars to “Honk for our brave troops,” we received numerous and positive responses. The shouts of joy, thumbs up and waves were constant; the honks from trucks deafening.
The same ardor was seen the following day when we were stationed near the protest site on Fort Benning Road. Honks were especially noisy when groups of hippie protesters passed by. Here, we displayed another banner: “No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” — Pope Pius XI.
The Pope’s phrase caused some controversy. And our rally site rapidly became the scene of heated debates, ranging from the SOA Watch to morality, the Church’s teaching on just war, and the role of harmonic inequality.
A U. S. Army Major approached with his son. “I live nearby and I just had to stop and say thank you for doing this.” Moments later, an Army wife, visibly upset by the protesters, asked if she could borrow one of our “God Bless Fort Benning” signs. After about an hour, she returned to tell us that she had walked deep into the protest, holding the sign up high. Several protesters confronted her. Others said: “We support the troops.” But she replied: “Why won’t you say that on the loudspeaker?”
Excommunicated Priest Leads a Shrinking Protest
The excommunicated priest who leads the annual SOA Watch protest, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, is attracting a dwindling mix of dissident Catholics, aging nuns, socialists, communists, anarchists, and confused college students.
Protest vendors exhibiting books about Stalin, Marx, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro saw sales plummet this year, according to reports. Despite the “occupy” claim of representing 99% of America, few showed up. After all, how many Americans really want bumper stickers and patches with offensive inscriptions such as “F*** patriotism,” “Lesbian,” and “Feminist”? How many Americans want Che Guevara T-shirts? Not even 0.99%.
Capt. J. D. Hawk of the Columbus Police Department estimated the presence of 3,210 protesters, a 32% decrease from last year’s attendance. Considering the fact that SOA Watch boasted having 22,000 protesters in 2006, the drop in numbers is considerable.
In the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Bourgeois explains why the protest is failing: “What I’ve heard the last couple of years, some people have said, ‘My bones can’t take it anymore.’ This is our 22nd year, and if you started here 20 years ago and you were 60, you’re now 80.”
What We Saw Inside the Protest
The most shocking aspect of the protest was the presence of many nuns, sporting t-shirts with the name of their order, which was the only way to identify them as consecrated religious. These aging nuns held signs or operated booths supporting women’s ordination and other dissident causes.
The booth of the Progressive Catholic Coalition, for example, was highly disturbing. A wicker basket with communion wafers rested on the table near the following sign: “Guerrilla Communion – Take one and break it with someone.”
Other groups supported illegal immigration or displayed posters to “free Bradley Manning,” the suspect traitor responsible for Wikileaks.
Just as Fr. Bourgeois began his talk on stage, we entered the protest perimeter and peacefully shared the TFP flyer with hundreds of people: Who Do the “Occupy Fort Benning” Protesters Represent? — Unmasking the 0.99%. The flyer sparked discussions. Perplexed college students even questioned the motives behind the protest.
It was great. Disagreements broke out among the protesters themselves.
“We need a socialist society with total equality,” insisted one protester.
“No!”a fellow protester disagreed, “We need to elect officials and that would be hierarchical.”
“No,” added a third, “the community will rule…”
An older pacifist protester denied the right of self-defense. “There is no authority. If a criminal broke into my home, I wouldn’t call the police because the police use force. I would rather die.” One gray-haired feminist woman who claimed to be Catholic frantically complained how TFP volunteers were “all young.” Donning a rainbow flag around her shoulders, she screamed: “Jesus was not God. We shouldn’t follow the Church because it was founded by men.”
While the protester complained about our being “all young,” a shop owner near the intersection was delighted by the fact. “It’s nice to see young men with their heads screwed on correctly,” he said.
May God continue to bless Fort Benning, our troops, and our nation.
If you’d like to support the troops with us next year at Fort Benning, contact us here.
TFP on WTVM Channel 9:
“Supporters of Troops Line Streets of Broadway”