(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13. Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23. Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33. Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. Days 43-45. Days 46-48. )
(yes I know it's been nine months since my last update I'm a bad person)
"No, no, it's okay. He loves it. He totally loves it!"
The 'he' in question does not, in fact, appear to be 'loving it.'
Aside from their ridiculous signs the protesters that plague our sidewalk don't usually bother much with props. Occasionally Luis will pull out a shofar to blatt, which is an odd choice considering he and his brethren take malicious joy in yelling JESUS IS LORD in Hebrew whenever spotting someone heading to the temple down the street. The Runner (who moved farther away and hardly ever shows up anymore, which might cause me to rethink my belief that there are no gods) had her little plastic foetus keychains but those were more of a, well, souvenir she kept trying to force on people. Occasionally we get one of the folks across the street with red duct tape on their mouths, but by and far there's very few objects beyond the omnipresent Bibles that get bandied about by the screamers.
Mr. Preacherman, though, is cut from a different and far more unstable bolt of cloth. Using a music stand is understandable, I suppose, as having something to leave his Bible on when he darts off to try to restrict access to incoming patients must be handy indeed. He also tried to get away with setting up a largish table 'to hold all the Bibles that he was going to give away' which conveniently (for him) blocked a large approach area to the clinic from the street. The police, at this point extremely well-versed with Mr. Preacherman and his antics, made him get rid of it because he didn't have a permit. I don't usually side with small-town bureaucracy but I'm glad to make an exception in this instance.
Lately he's resorted to a much more mobile kind of prop - his children. As he constantly reminds us he has a half-dozen of them. I don't think we've had the entire gaggle here at the same time but definitely more than a few underfoot on numerous occasions. It's difficult to feel anything but pity for them as they are doomed to be warped by their unstable father, who pays little attention to them as they stand around for hours looking bored beyond words. Today he's got his wife there to wrangle the brood, and that's who he's talking to as he holds a child who's eight, maybe ten months old.
Holding an infant.
Who isn't wearing any ear protection.
As his father preaches through a loudspeaker that hangs perhaps a foot away from the child's head.
Regularly exceeding 80db.
His wife, doing her best to keep her rising alarm under control, continues to entreat him to hand the child over. Finally, after several more minutes of yelling through an amplifier next to the kid's ear, he acquiesces and gives her the kid just in time to yell at a couple walking in.
"YOU ARE PARENTS OF A CHILD, HOW CAN YOU DO THIS?"
* * *
"CHARLES 'THE DEADMAN' DARWIN WAS, AT BEST, A COMPLETE MORON!"
Kettle, pot, black, etc.
Scrubs has been elevated to having a spot as a screamer each weekend, which I have to assume is because of others who previously held the position no longer showing up. Actually, that's not 100% correct as Luis, he of shouting at brick walls and asking women whether they were virgins or not, has made occasional appearances lately. He hasn't taken the mike, though, and in fact has been curiously (and wonderfully) subdued. I do not ask why.
"YOU LADIES THINK JUST BECAUSE YOU BEHAVE LIKE WHORES YOU CAN COME HERE AND ERASE YOUR SIN OF FORNICATION! YOU WILL LEARN THAT'S NOT TRUE WHEN YOU FACE THE LORD!"
Scrubs is more than willing to pick up the crazy/slut shaming slack that Luis used to dish out, which doesn't excite anyone. He's monotonous and condescending, labeling anyone who doesn't agree with his Bible-backed 'truths' as some sort of simpleton. That he clearly believes women are second-class citizens is easy enough to discern from his words but even more obvious in the way he treats his wife, the odious Runner Lite. There's no detectable affection between the pair, no sweet moments or stolen hugs. When he's on the mike her job is to make sure he's hydrated and to otherwise stay out of the way because A MAN IS TALKING.
The underlying rot of their dynamic is never more apparent during one of the many times the police show up - in this instance, at my urging after she and Mr. Preacherman have more than overstepped boundaries earlier in the shift by shoving us from behind and blocking access from the street to the sidewalk. After speaking with me the officer approaches her to discuss the situation only to have Scrubs break off from his oration to shout, "RICHELE, YOU GO STAND AGAINST THE WALL! I'M THE HUSBAND AND I'LL TALK TO THE POLICE!"
This doesn't sit well with either his wife or the somewhat taken aback officer (Dude, have you not been paying attention to what goes on here? Like, at all?) but that doesn't slow him down in the least. "I'M THE HUSBAND HERE! OFFICER, YOU TALK TO ME!"
Suffice to say the cop does *not* agree with the proclamation and instead has the temerity to speak with Runner Lite while Scrub's stands a few feet away, absolutely seething. Runner Lite basks in the opportunity to spew falsehoods on her own - it shouldn't surprise me how willing the protesters are to lie but yet here we are - and concocts a version of what occurred that doesn't bear even the faintest resemblance to reality. Once she hears that two of us are planning on filing complaints she immediately announces her intention of doing the same, which is how Lena and I find ourselves sharing the small reception area of the Englewood Police Department after the end of the shift. The officer in the middle of all this has gone from being mildly irritated at us for choosing to swear out complaints to being thoroughly irked at the protesters, warning them not to interact with us while the wheels of procedure slowly grind along. Mr. Preacherman's repeated facetious offerings of a can of iced tea to the disinterested cop isn't helping their standing, not that they care. Since they can't address us directly they instead have loud conversations tossing mockery our way, laughing a bit too loud at attempted jokes and putdowns. It's a relief when we can stride out without even glancing in their direction.
The antics continued a month later at one of the most surreal Zoom court sessions I've ever been part of - okay, the only Zoom court session I've even been part of. From a hotel room several hundred miles away - I was working a convention - I watch in amused silence as the town prosecutor repeatedly tears into the lawyer representing Mr. Preacherman and Runner Lite (who appears to be alone but I'm fairly confident Scrubs is lurking just off-camera, ready to intercede in case she's called on to say something) over his utter lack of professionalism. The judge tries to seize the reins a few times but it's a good three-quarters of an hour before she's able to get them sorted out and our morass of complaints and counter-complaints is shunted off to the future. Alas, before that legal matter can be addressed Mr. Preacherman decides to up the ante in new and exciting ways.
* * *
"C'mon, Kit! LET'S GO! I knew you had that fire in you somewhere! LET'S GO!"
I'd like to go. Believe me, I'd LOVE to go. But since the camera-wearing Mr. Preacherman wants me to do so with all of his heart I am not going to go.
Mr. Preacherman, however . . .
We like to laugh at the antics of the protesters whenever possible but the bottom line is that these are people hell-bent (ha!) on trying to coerce vulnerable women into joining their cult. What also isn't a joke is the escalating of violence in both Mr. Preacherman's rhetoric and his actions. Back in August I was forced to file a complaint against both him and Runner Lite for pushing through me from behind and then blocking access from the street to the sidewalk. But while Runner Lite's response to getting rapped on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper has been to switch to snarky, 'cutting' comments instead, Mr. Preacherman has started spouting more insults and upping his physicality. It's a bit unsettling - not because I don't think I could handle him if need be but rather that he seems a dangerously unbalanced mix of zealotry and mental instability. By his own admission he was bounced out of the military for refusing to take the meds he was prescribed, so I don't think my alarm is unwarranted. A few weeks ago the police picked him up outside the clinic and discovered he was toting a knife. He's often shouted that only answers to the laws of his god and not to those of man. Honestly, he feels like a cauldron ready to boil over.
It doesn't take long for things to reach that point today. From a vantage point ten or so yards away I watch Monroe approach the driver's door of an idling car, letting the person inside know that yes, they're at the clinic, and offering suggestions as to where to park.
Then Mr. Preacherman walks over and hipchecks Monroe out of the way.
There was nothing subtle or accidental about it. When an astonished Monroe steps back to where he'd been Mr. Preacherman hipchecks him away again. Not gonna lie, as I rush over the urge to smear Mr. Preacherman against the vehicle is strong indeed - very, very strong - but instead I get between him and Monroe as the patient emerges from the passenger side, being guided by other members of our team. Monroe and I fall in behind them and I'm asking him if he's okay when it's my turn to get hit, this time a shove from behind. At first I'm so stunned it takes a moment to register but before I can react in any manner I'm pushed again and now, now, my elbow is up and cocked as Mr. Preacherman continues to try to taunt me into making a big mistake. For a moment I think I'm going to let it fly and fuck the consequences but something is screaming from deep inside to remind me that this isn't about me. I let my arm drop as he bangs against me again, preparing to turn and yell at him.
Just yell. I swear.
"You! Stop! Right now! I see what you're doing!" With a fair amount of surprise I realize the words didn't come from myself or Monroe but rather from a member of the Englewood PD, who has come running across the street from his parked patrol truck. "Back off from them right now!"
Mr. Preacherman, man of God and morally opposed to sin, begins lying instantly. "Officer, I'm glad you're here. They started it by pushing me and -"
The cop isn't buying that. "No, they didn't. I saw the whole thing and it's on my body cam, so what I need you to do right now is back off. Immediately."
Monroe and I keep moving, leaving Mr. Preacherman to his transformation from WARRIOR FOR JESUS to an unctuous, fibbing sycophant crooning his lifelong support for the police. The Englewood PD is quite aware of his shenanigans at this point and my best guess is that his version of what happened is falling on cynical ears. Does the officer really have the incriminating evidence on his camera? If he does, it's not offered up to my knowledge.
That's okay. The protestors aren't the only ones who can wear body cams. And pushing and shoving someone representing the clinic? That is a violation of the FACE Act. FACE stands for 'Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances' and, friends and neighbors, it is a FEDERAL law.
Mr. Preacherman has just fucked around and found out.
It takes a little while to get all the ducks in a row but the FBI raids his house and takes him away just a week or two before he and his family are supposed to leave the US and head to Nepal try to ram his religion down the throats of a new nation of people. There's a lot of back and forth before he's finally permitted to leave as planned with the knowledge that he still has to stand trial but believe me, if he wants to thumb his nose at us and never set foot in New Jersey again I would consider that a fair trade off. For all his talk of having a 'great pro bono' lawyer he posts a GoFundMe begging for help with his legal fees which, as of this writing, sits at about ten percent of his goal. Thought and prayers, sir. Thoughts and prayers.
UPDATE: Mr. Preacherman had his arraignment yesterday (mid-December) and is facing charges for Blocking Access to a Clinic Entrance and Using Physical Force to Injure or Intimidate a Medical Professional. Both carry a sentence of a year in Federal prison. Do I think he'll end up serving time? Probably not, but a ban requiring him to stay away from clinics would be just as welcome. Updates as they happen.
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE (11/2022): Mr. Preacherman reached a settlement of sorts with the government - no prison time BUT he's permanently forbidden to be within 25 feet of the clinic and he also cannot approach incoming patients within 100 feet of the clinic. Is it a perfect solution for us? No, but it's not bad. He's currently in Nepal but was in town preaching just outside of his new forbidden zone while in court for hate crime charges. Yeah, he's a real peach.
* * *
"You are a MURDERER! You have BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS and you will NEVER BE A GOOD FATHER!"
How would you react if someone screamed that in your face via an 80+db loudspeaker while standing on a patch of sidewalk he wasn't allowed to be in?
Would you feel threatened?
Would you react?
Would you be justified if you did?
Not gonna lie, I didn't see this one coming during my first shift after Mr. Preacherman's arrest by the Feds. He was released on bail and ordered to stay away from the clinic but I'm exactly zero percent surprised when he drives by in the middle of the morning, swerving across traffic in order to brandish a raised fist and howl something incoherent as he passes by. Him being gone means that others have to pick up the preaching on the squawkbox slack, and given how low their numbers have been that unfortunately means that Scrubs is given additional time to spew his hatred, misogyny, and ignorance. He's all about strutting through the buffer zone while he orates and I'm all about filming him as he does so, as every little bit we can pile up against these folks and their utter disregard for the laws that are supposed to apply to everyone will help.
Right now Scrubs is screaming at a guy who had come back in alone, probably to drop off an ID for the person he'd brought. That happens more often than you might expect, and after emerging he's immediately confronted by the ranting, frothing Scrubs. The guy - let's call him Nigel - Nigel seems taken aback and confused by this lunatic screaming at him through a speaker while standing in what's supposed to be a safe zone. He tells Scrubs that he has no idea what his situation is but of course Scrubs doesn't care and continues to berate him. Josie and I step in to intercede, making ourselves a barrier between the two, but Nigel has had quite enough and reaches through us to give Scrubs a healthy shove. Now we're trying to drag him away before anything else happens - Runner Lite is already on her phone calling the Englewood PD - and we shepherd him down the street to try to calm him down a bit.
"How is this legal?" Nigel is from England and seems perplexed as to why this is permitted. You and me both, buddy. "They'd be arrested where I come from for doing this."
We're still walking him from the site of the incident, pausing as he stops short and gives out a large shuddering gasp, wiping at his eyes. Once we start moving again we're joined by Runner Lite, who buzzes around on her phone telling the police that the deathscorts are 'fleeing the scene of the crime.' She continues to harass Nigel, trying to goad him into saying things that might get him in trouble. She's not even trying to hide it. With a sigh we tell her to get lost and bring him back to a location relatively near the front doors to wait for the cops.
The officer who shows up is kind, patient, and appears to be somewhat understanding of how freaked out and upset Nigel is at the moment. After shooing Runner Lite away - she's still flitting about offering her version of what happened - he takes Nigel's statement. We have no idea if Scrubs is going to file a complaint or not but at least there are no handcuffs involved or anyone hauled away for now. We still need to get Nigel to his car and away from here for now but he's parked (illegally, it turns out, but he luckily didn't get ticketed or towed) on a street on the opposite side of the clinic entrance - in other word, if we take the direct route he's going to have to run the gauntlet again.
We take the indirect route instead by going the long way around the block, chatting about some of the places he's traveled to and the differences between the US and England. I wouldn't say he's happy by the time we reach our destination but he's definitely in a much better state of mind. We let him know that if anything does come of it he can contact us through the clinic to speak on his behalf. We shake hands and head back to the door to relieve the other escorts who have been covering for us, realizing when we get there that it's well after 11 and time to call it a day. Runner Lite mutters something as we walk past but I can't make it out.
No great loss there.
Be safe and happy in 2022, my friends.