Yesterday, I posted a video of a group of Chick-fil-A “Kiss-In” protesters mocking an elderly homeless street preacher in Chicago on Friday evening. Many commenters have asked for additional information about the man and the scene.
In walking around the small protest area, I saw the homeless man reading the Bible out loud. He was not shouting or confronting people when I saw him. It was so ordinary that I didn’t think to film him at that time. A little later, I saw people begin to gather around him, including someone writing in chalk on the ground right near where the man was sitting on a fence with his Bible in hand.
As I mentioned in my prior post, initially I saw people interacting with the homeless man civilly about theological issues, and have posted that video here.
But at some point I noticed that a crowd had surrounded the homeless man and was taunting him. I turned on my camera, and what you saw in the original video was unedited save for a few seconds at the end panning the crowd, including one person in the crowd high-fiving another as the confrontation ended; I have uploaded the entire unedited clip here.
Although the video I posted presents events in context, it could not possibly fully capture what it felt like to see the homeless man surrounded by people mocking him. It was hard not to jump in and defend him, but I wanted to keep filming. In all of the exchanges I witnessed, he remained calm, as he is in the video, even as people were in his face, literally.
There was chalk all around the man, but I didn’t videotape it all. You can see in the prior clip that there is a reference to the Bible, but I can’t read the rest.
Soon after the confrontation was over and people had left, I asked the homeless man what he thought of one specific chalking, an arrow pointed to where he was seated, “He’s Really Gay Deep Down.” Here is what he said:
Off-camera I asked the man if he was okay, and let him know I was sorry about what happened. He was unfazed for the most part, but thanked me for my concern. He asked me what church I go to, and after I told him, he said that he used to go there too.
A few minutes later, I thought to ask him if he would like anything to eat. He said he wouldn’t mind a chicken sandwich and a coke with no ice; I asked him if he wanted to try the peach milkshake and he thought that sounded nice too.
He asked for my name, and thanked me heartily. When I returned with the food, we figured out a way to wedge the milkshake into his shopping basket that was full of his clothes and other items, so that the shake wouldn’t tip over.
One big question has been the identity of the lead protester (in a plaid shirt) in the video confronting the homeless man.
It wasn’t something we planned to investigate.
But it turns out that the person voluntarily identified himself in the comments section as “Spencer Thayer” using that person’s verifiable email address (warning: profanity):
spencerthayer | August 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm
The preacher was equating Gay people to pigs and Satan. He was being loud and rude while using his Bible to interupt the event with the intent of shaming peoples life styles. He has his right to free speech, just as I had every right to call him out on his bullshit. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that ass hat Christian’s can’t be called out for being dick heads by other dick heads.
Besides the video is biased and edits out the shit he was saying to make him look like a victim. This “preacher” was nothing but a bigot. I asked and he agreed that Deuteronomy 22:24, which states raped women who do not scream loud enough should be stone, should be followed. He also said “lazy sons” should be stoned to death as well.
Fuck that guy and fuck any of you who agree with him.
The person in the video certainly looks like the Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer who was a longtime Chicago-area activist, most recently with the Occupy Chicago movement leading a crowd in October 2011 in a chant of “We are the 99%.” Thayer also was a member of a group “Chicago Cop Watch” whose goal, ironically enough, was to videotape police. Thayer also was an advocate of the “Chicago Principles” during the NATO summit, a set of defining principles for all of the groups protesting NATO to keep dissent from getting out. Thayer’s Twitter account has an Occupy graphic as his profile picture and many anti-capitalist tweets.
Who Thayer is is interesting and says a lot about how the Occupy movement occupies many protest movements, but that’s not what I took away from this whole episode.
I will always remember that street preacher holding his Bible as the crowd taunted him. I am grateful to have witnessed this man’s quiet strength and dignity.