All photos Corey Rodda/Catalyst
Gathered under the rainbow flag, a spirited group of Novocollegians showed Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that Florida was no safe haven for what some perceive as her message of intolerance. “Two! four! six! eight! — you can’t pray the gay away,” shouted protesters assembled across the street from Sarasota’s Sahib Shrine Temple during the Minnesota congresswoman’s campaign appearance on Sunday Aug. 28.
New College students made up the bulk of about 50 protesters on hand to Bachmann on her conservative social and economic stances. Students carried rainbow-colored signs demanding equality for all regardless of sexuality or religion. Other signs targeted the congresswoman and her Tea Party credentials. One sign read, “The Tea Party is for little girls.”
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Michele Bachmann has got to go,” the crowd chanted. And then, “Keep theology out of biology,” and, “Down with hate, love is for everybody,” Also, “Jesus loves everybody,” and “1! 3! 5! 7! all gays go to heaven, 2! 4! 6! 8! we don’t want your fucking hate.” This last chant died when police asked protestors not to shout it because of its use of the expletive.
Protesters also provoked Bachmann supporters by making out in same-sex pairings in the middle of the street outside the Temple.
“I thought the making out with individuals who were not normally gender identified or same gender identified was really awesome,” said third-year student Lauren Brenzel. “It totally freaked people out and the cops let New College students do it, which was awesome. It was a good way to make a statement, saying that we are here, we don’t care what you think about us and what you do think about us will not affect what we do in front of you.”
Some standing in line to see Bachmann had their own response to the demonstrators. Brenzel said one man shielded himself from the protesters with his umbrella.
Others shouted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Obama’s got to go.”
“There were women in line next to New College students that said, ‘Those children (Novocollegians) are never going to get an education, they’re never going to graduate,” said first-year Olivia Levinson. “An elderly woman in her 80s said, ‘If you guys go in there and start heckling, you are terrible people — don’t you dare do anything mischievous.’”
A few Novocollegians were barred from entering the temple to see Bachmann because of their clothing. Levinson, clad in an Obama shirt, was one.
“When it was my turn to go in they peeked the door open and said, ‘We’re not letting you in because of your shirt,’” which had Obama’s face on it, Levinson said.
Second-year Caroline “Taylor” Rothenburg was flagged because of her “Legalize Gay Repeal Prop 8” T-shirt, while second-year student Amanda Wilson was also refused entrance because of her “Legalize LA Immigration Reform Now!” T-shirt. Rothenburg said she and Wilson were banned because rally sponsors considered them protesters — even though they weren’t with the main body of demonstrators. Second-year Timothy “Tim” Duff was banned from the Bachmann rally because he wore a dress.
As the line of people waiting to get into the temple and see Bachmann dwindled, protesters got one last chance to be heard as Bachmann’s campaign bus drove past them. Inside the temple, Bachmann, raising her profile and money in Florida after emerging victorious in the recent Iowa straw poll, delivered a political speech lasting about a half-hour, preaching the gospel of small government and a litany of other GOP talking points. Bachmann also raised eyebrows by calling for drilling for oil in the Everglades. Despite getting considerable coverage on her trek through Florida, Bachmann’s stint at the top of the GOP heap may be short-lived given the new candidacy of Texas Gov. Rick Perry — another Tea Party convert.