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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 13th annual Nashville Pagan Pride Day (NPPD) event was visited by three Christian street preachers who call themselves Nashville Saints. The men arrived at the Two Rivers Park with bibles, signs, and a bullhorn. They proceed to shout at the attendees for several hours before they finally left.According to organizers, this was the first time that Nashville Pagan Pride Day had attracted this type of attention. “There were three of them,” said Rev. Mary Hawk, is the local co-coordinator for the event as well as the president and secretary for NPPD Inc. “I had a part in main ritual, and they showed up while I was busy with that.”
Rev. Hawk is a longtime volunteer and attendee at NPPD. She has been part of the event since its early days in 2003 when it was still at one of two local Unitarian churches. In 2015, the organization moved the event to Two Rivers Park, because they had outgrown the indoor church space.
Rev. Hawk said that this year they saw their biggest crowd yet, topping at 739 guests.
This fairly recent change in location and the event’s growth may explain why it had yet to see any type of protesters. Rev. Hawk said, “My daughter who was present tells me that she has seen this group on Second Ave. (a major Nashville tourist destination) yelling out the same sort of stuff to everyone passing by.”
That is true. The three men make up a local street preaching group that labels itself the Nashville Saints. They are regulars in the area and travel around the Southeast with their bullhorn and signs.
Quentin Deckard is one of the two main speakers. He calls himself Saint Quentin and says that he is “Disciple of Jesus Christ.” As he explains on his Facebook page: “Who I was before this point in my life is irrelevant.” He was joined by two other men identified as Marvin Heiman and Tim Baptist.
As reported by Rev. Hawk and others, the park police escorted the three men through the event one time. “After that tour up and down the length of vendor row, they remained at the front of the event, between our welcome table and the line for the food vendor,” notes Rev. Hawk. Yelling the entire time, the men walked slowly through the space, carrying their backpacks, a sign, bibles, several cameras, and a unused bullhorn.
Their entire walk can be seen in the above 40-minute video taken by the men themselves, as well as in a Facebook live video shot by Deckard. Many Pagan onlookers also recorded videos. Ariel Marie Barnes and Carria Woodburn posted their videos on the Nashville PPD event page.
Attendees reacted to the street preachers in different ways. Some tried to reason with them, and even tried to shake their hands. Rev. Hawk said, “I approached them to ask if they would care to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank (one of our designated charities) but they totally ignored me and continued ranting.”
One woman circled them with a smudge stick and, as can be seen in the longer video, another appears to have circled them with salt. As the men walked by, Rev. Hawk and others joined their voices in a chant of “We all come from the Goddess.”
Rev. Hawk said said that a few people were very upset by the presence of the street preachers. However, most thought “it was hilarious.” She said that there were people surrounding them at all times. “At one point, the protesters yelled, ‘You are all going to die.’ Several people yelled back, “Well, so are you!'”
Lucia Jameson, one of the other event coordinators and the vice president of NPPD Inc. agreed, saying, “Most of [our attendees] treated the religious bullies as free entertainment and took the opportunity to mock them a bit.
“One attendee wearing a jester’s cap, black and red pants, and black-and-red arm bracers decided to mimic every move of the main yeller. […] A young lady and her girlfriend shared a kiss in front of them and them skipped past them, holding hands and shouting ‘We’re Pagan and we’re gay!'”Jameson added that there was no way to fully shield attendees or keep people away from the street preachers. The crowd was too large. She added, “Primarily I tried to make sure that our attendees knew not to physically touch them no matter what they said. [The protesters] weren’t leaving until they got enough video to post and our folks were not going to ignore them while they were screaming.”
However the coordinators did get help from the park police. Rev. Hawk said, “Metro Parks requires that anyone holding an event in a park pay for Metro Park Police to provide security.”
“[Officers] did closely monitor the situation,” continued Rev. Hawk. “[They] explained what we had to allow legally and saw to that that protesters stayed with in those bounds. I cannot speak highly enough of their work at NPPD, especially Lt. Houston Taylor.”
TWH reached out to the Metro Park Police, but they did not respond in time for publication.Jameson said, “The police were there the for the entire event. I spoke when them several times throughout the day. They were very helpful, keeping an eye on the incident as it unfolded. They were ready to intervene as necessary.”
In the end, the street preachers only stayed for a reported two hours, after which, Jameson said, the street preachers began to get hoarse. She explained that they could not use their bullhorn. “That may have contributed to their departure.”
Rev. Hawk speculated that a dwindling audience also contributed to their short stay. She said, “Our main entertainment, a concert by Rowena of the Glen, started. Most of those watching [the protesters] left to hear the concert.”
Despite the disruption and the shouting, NPPD saw its most successful year yet. As Rev. Hawk and Jameson both reported, the organization raised collected 369 pounds of food and $148 in cash for Second Harvest Food Bank, and 267 pounds of dog and cat food, plus treats, miscellaneous items and $230 in cash for the Middle Tennessee Pet Food Bank. The organization also raised $230 in cash for the school at the NoDAPL camp in North Dakota.
Jameson said, “Both our vendors and attendees were pleased overall with the event and let us know that they are looking forward to next year.” With that said, she added that the NPPD committee will be discussing what happened. “Based on the events this year we are looking at what we can do to have better control if a similar incident occurs next year.”