NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Police arrested 34 pro-homosexual demonstrators who were protesting June 13 against the Southern Baptist Convention’s adherence to the Bible’s stance on homosexuality.
The protestors were members of Soulforce, a national network of homosexual activists led by Mel White as co-founder and executive director. They were all released later in the day, according to authorities in New Orleans.
Marching Mardi Gras style with a rented jazz band out front, about 70 protestors carrying a large gray basket draped with a rainbow-colored flag marched up Poydras Avenue to hold a press conference in front of the Louisiana Superdome.
Captain S.B. Nichols of the New Orleans Police Department had said the protestors would be arrested and taken into custody after being charged with trespassing for jeopardizing public safety in attempting to march into the Superdome with their casket.
Nichols said attorneys for the group had met with New Orleans law enforcement at least three separate times in the past month to insure a legal parade permit was obtained and to speed up the process for their release. Nichols did say Soulforce had been “ambiguous” about their actual plans and had repeatedly changed details regarding the actual number of persons to be arrested.
In an invitation to the event, handed to messengers at various points around the Superdome, a “Jazz Funeral — to mourn for gay Southern Baptists and their families” would be held in response to Soulforce demands that SBC officials meet with group leaders before or during the SBC’s annual meeting. The invitation also called for Southern Baptists to appoint a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to examine homosexuality and for SBC messengers to re-examine their beliefs about homosexuality.
Just prior to his arrest, White claimed to have offered to cancel the protest if demands for “dialogue” were met by SBC officials. He did not say to whom he spoke or when.
An officer warned the protestors that they had two minutes to relocate before being arrested.
“We’re sorry to cause you this inconvenience,” said Mel White, executive director of Soulforce, “but we really are desperate to get our message to Southern Baptist leadership. We will have to wait and pay the consequences of whatever happens.”
Jimmy Creech, the chairman of Soulforce’s board of directors, pleaded for Southern Baptist leadership to listen to the stories of homosexual Southern Baptists.
“The Southern Baptist Convention has teachings that cause violence against gay and lesbians and bisexuals and transgender people,” Creech said. “They have done so without seeing their faces, without knowing who they are. [Southern Baptists] need to hear the truth, they need to see the faces, they need to know the stories.”
As officers began handcuffing protestors, White appealed to bystanders for empathy.
“Don’t see us as crazies, but as your brothers and sisters,” he asked. “Heed us, help us, do not ignore us. We pray in Christ’s name, hear us!”
With reporting by Karen Willoughby, Brittany Jarvis & Don Hinkle.