Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation (johno) wrote,
Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation

Laramie Project at Newark High School - Preparing to "welcome" Fred Phelps

Originally the Newark School Board and Police Department planned to handle the issues involved internally.

As word spread and Mr. Phelps and his associates from Kansas announced their plans to protest, it was determined that there would be, at minimum, large crowds to deal with, the Newark Police asked PFLAG Newark for assistance gathering crowd control volunteers.

dafydd is running a fund raiser tied to how long Mr Phelps is present.

Follows is a email from PFLAG Newark with a brief summery of the issue and details of what is needed.

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2002 01:11:48 -0800
From: Paul Clifford
Organization: PFLAG Newark
Subject: Laramie in Newark Update #1

Dear PFLAG Friends,

Note: If you want to directly receive further updates like this one
you must respond to the address with a subject line that says "Keep me informed". In the body please say if you will be an organizer who will attend the organizational meetings, or if you want to offer to help the organizers in any of the needed areas.

In this issue of the Laramie Update, you'll find:

1. What's this all about -- a vigil for Gwen/Eddie and Laramie/Newark
2. Please spread this email
3. How to stay on this email List
4. Schedule of events
5. Getting tickets to the Laramie Project
6. Help us organize! We need leaders to organize:
a. Safety Monitors
b. Memorial Vigil
c. Media Coordinator
d. Angel Action
e. Clean-Up Crew
f. Memorial Scholarship for Youth
7. About the organizational meetings and safety monitor training
8. What to bring to the vigil -- Rules for Disengaging Phelps
9. Other events, rallies and vigils

1. What's this all about

Thank you for your interest in Newark Memorial High School's production of the "Laramie Project", a drama about the reactions of the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming to the brutal murder of Laramie son and gay college student Matthew Shepard. As you may know, the high school's production will be protested by the "Rev." Fred Phelps, who protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard, and we've received email from many, many people who plan to come to the performances to provide an antidote to the Phelps hatred.

We are all terribly saddened to learn of the death two weeks ago of 17-year-old Gwen/Eddie Araujo, a transgender youth who lived right here in Newark, CA. Apparently, Gwen was killed by three young men from Newark and Fremont, angered at discovering that Gwen was transgendered. It appears that the murder will be prosecuted as a hate crime.

It is a tragic irony that as the kids at Newark High School prepare the play, they are being forced to live it.

At PFLAG we have received many inquiries about the performances, the protest, and counter-protests. The horrible murder of Gwen right here in Newark has focused attention on the school and its production, and greatly increased the number of people planning to attend the play and the events outside of the school.

In order to ensure that the evenings' events are safe and respectful for everyone we have undertaken to cooperate with the Newark Police to organize events at the school site. As these plans progress we'll keep you informed, and ask for your help.

WE DO NEED HELP! So those of you who would like to take a leadership role PLEASE RESPOND AND ATTEND OUR ORGANIZATIONAL MEETINGS. Please see point 6 below for what we need.

We prefer that you contact us specifically about this event by emailing to If you must speak to us, call the PFLAG helpline at 510-226-6816, and Pat, our wonderful helpline mom, will call you back as soon as possible.

2. Please spread this email

Please circulate this email to everyone who might be interested. All future emails will only be directly sent out by us only to those who respond to this email.

3. How to stay on this email List

If you want to directly receive further updates like this one you must respond to the address with a subject line that says "Keep me informed". We have used other "PFLAG" addresses in the past so make sure you respond only to This is necessary for us to keep track of the responses and to assure we don't spam anyone. We want to send updates only to those truly interested, and we want to assure those interested that they will get the updates.

We apologize for any duplicate mailings and will strive to clean up the address on the next update. We also regret we are unable to respond separately to each of the hundreds of inquiries we've gotten.

4. Schedule of events

Mark these dates on your calendar, and see below for directions to the organizational meetings:

Sunday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.
Organizational meeting in Fremont

Sunday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Organizational meeting and Safety Monitor Training

Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 8, 9, 15, and 16, 8 p.m.
Laramie Performances at Newark High School

Saturday Nov. 16 (probably 2 p.m.)
Additional matinee performance

5. Getting tickets to the Laramie Project

The school has gone out on a limb by performing a controversial play. Let's let them know that it was the right choice! If you want to support the school, the best way is to advertise the event to get as many to see the play as possible. And let's not just "sing to the choir", but advertise the play in the mainstream community. This play is a great educational opportunity for those who are uncomfortable with sexual minorities. So spread the word, far and
wide, particularly in your church and community groups and among youth. Determine to take a young person who has never seen live theater to see this play! It may change their life. And after the performance go back to your schools, churches and workplaces and bring up the issue of the treatment of the transgendered and sexual minority youth.

Newark HS will show four performances, each at 8 pm, on Nov 8, 9, 15, and 16, and a matinee on Nov. 16. The performances on Nov. 8 and 9 are already sold out! The school is located in Newark, CA on Cedar Blvd. between Mowry Ave. and Stevenson Blvd., just across from Newark's NewPark Mall.

The Newark Drama Dept. advises people to purchase tickets beforehand, and the sooner the better. To purchase tickets, send a check for $8 per ticket made out to Newark Memorial High School, send a self-addressed stamped envelope, include your phone number, and specify the performance you will attend, to: Mrs. Barbara Williams The Laramie Project, Newark Memorial High School, 39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark, CA 94560. Tickets will be mailed back to you, or if it's too close to the show date they will be held for you at the theater door.

Also, keep in mind that Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland will be performing the play on Nov. 15, 16, 22, 23, at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. The Phelps clan has announced that it will protest those performances too, and in our next update we'll address security issues at that school. All tickets are $10. Send a check made out to Bishop O'Dowd Drama, include your phone number, and designate the performance dates and number of tickets you want to: Bishop O'Dowd Drama, 9500 Stearns Ave., Oakland CA 94605. Tickets will be held at the box office, 510-577-9140. Patrons must be seated 10 minutes before performance time for their tickets to be held.

6. Help us organize!

We need leaders and committee members who will attend the organizational meetings on two Sundays, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, in Fremont. If you can be an organizer let us know; if you cannot attend the organizational meetings but want to help out in any of the following areas let us know too! Organizers are needed to assume primary responsibility in these areas:

a. Safety Monitors - We need people to recruit, train, and manage safety monitors who will be present at every performance of the play. They will train the safety monitors in Fremont on Sunday Nov. 2, at 1 p.m. Only those who attend this training in nonviolence and crowd control, or who have attended equivalent trainings, may be
safety monitors. The safety monitors will circulate within the crowd, attend to any disruptions, assure that a clear zone is kept between the Phelps protestors and vigil attendees, and coordinate with the Newark Police.

b. Memorial Vigil - We need people to organize a candlelight memorial vigil. This will involve lining up speakers (including community leaders, civil rights activists, sexual minority youth, friends of Gwen's, clergy to counterbalance Phelps), providing candles, providing an audio system, recruiting a choir to lead us in song, etc?

c. Media Coordinator - We need someone to coordinate with the media, keep them informed, and line up media interviews with spokespersons from each organization represented at the vigil.

d. Angel Action - We need a creative spirit to organize an Angel Action: A band of angels with humongous wings dedicated to nonviolence to form a line between the Phelps protest and the school and vigil attendees. Requirements: recruit angels, make the wings (we have good recipes for large, inexpensive wings), and assure their presence at the protest.

e. Clean-Up Crew - We want to assure that after the crowds are gone the school grounds and street are clean. We want to help the school, not increase their janitorial bills!

f. Memorial Scholarship for Youth - PFLAG Fremont/East Bay has long wanted to start a scholarship fund for youth who actively work for tolerance and acceptance in the tri-cities area. We believe that this is particularly needed in our towns, and scholarship assistance to youth here can make a big impact. The recent tragic events reinforce the need for this. We would like to establish a scholarship directed to youth in this area. We are looking for a PFLAG member who wants to take a leadership role in setting up the scholarship, raising funds for it, and advertising it.

If you are interested in organizing in any of these areas please let us know. In our next update (to be sent Monday Oct. 28) we will announce email address of the leaders in each area so that you can contact them directly to help.

7. About the organizational meetings and safety monitor training

Sunday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m. Organizational meeting in Fremont
Sunday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m. Organizational meeting and 1 p.m. Safety Monitor Training

These meetings will occur in Fremont, near the BART station. We can pick up attendees at the Fremont BART station (west side, facing away from the hills), one half hour before the meeting times. Meetings will be held at Dave's condo clubhouse at the corner of Spetti Dr. and Spetti Ct. Directions: From 880, exit Mowry Ave. in Fremont and go East. Go through Fremont towards the hills, about 3 miles. Just before Mowry ends at Mission turn right on Cherry Street (near Fernando's Restaurant and several lights after passing under the BART tracks). Continue on Cherry for 2 blocks to Spetti Drive and turn left. Go 2 blocks and the clubhouse will be on your right at the corner of Spetti Dr. & Spetti Ct. From Mission Blvd. head west on Mowry. Take a left at the first light, Cherry, and proceed as above. Questions? Lost? Contact Dave on the morning of the meetings at: (510) 364-1240

8. What to bring to the vigil -- Rules for Disengaging Phelps

Phelps and his clan protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard with signs that read "Shepard is burning in hell", "God Hates Fags", and the like. You can view the faxes Phelps sent to the high school (and to Bishop O'Dowd HS) at Look for "WBC to picket fag- riddled Newark High School..." Check out the site; it's quite informative.

While the Phelps clan sent a fax to the school asserting their intention to protest, we don't know which nights if any they may actually show up. Judging from their prior protests they are likely to show up the first night, and may show up for all four. We will work with the Newark Police Dept. to assure that the Phelps protest is contained and safe.

Phelps' signs and taunts are intended to incite violence, and the Phelps clan has many lawyers eager and waiting to sue those who respond violently. The best response is to IGNORE THEM! So, our countervailing activities will not be focused on Phelps but instead focused on providing a safe, welcoming atmosphere for the students and play attendees -- a "Welcome Committee" that provides a spiritual antidote to the Phelps hatred. The idea is to keep the evening's events nonconfrontational AND welcoming for the patrons of the play. Whether Phelps protests or not, we would like to welcome the supporters of the play and show our appreciation to them, and to mourn Newark's loss.

We DON'T want the patrons of the play to run a gauntlet to get into the school; we DO want them to find easy access to the school; we DO want to insulate them from the Phelps protest; and we DO want them to find a respectful and informative vigil that they would want to attend themselves.

Those who attend with organizations or clubs should dress similarly so that they look like they belong together.

Organizations and individuals who want to speak to the media should have an identified spokesperson who registers with us before the night of the play, and you should think about your most important point and be able to say it in less than 10 seconds. If it's well said you might even get a 10 second follow up!

If you want to attend the vigil on Nov. 8, get your play tickets for a different night.

All signs should be respectful and focused on the vigil, our loss, the needs of minority youth, and in support of the school and its students. We are asking that there be no signs referring to the Phelps protest.

9. Other events, rallies and vigils

Visit for more information about vigils, actions, news articles, and a memorial fund for Gwen/Eddie Araujo. That page will be continually updated.

Thank you,

-- Paul Clifford
PFLAG Fremont/Newark/Union City

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