The small Pennsylvania town of Mifflinburg witnessed a face-off between LGBT+ protestors and Trump supporters on Sunday (26 July).
It started as a response to a bizarre note stuck on a grocery store door which linked mask-wearing, catching coronavirus and being LGBT+.
But it ended with a couple of hundred LGBT+ people and allies in rainbow colors lining the town’s main street.
Meanwhile a smaller group of counter-protestors waved Confederate flags. And cars with US flags and Trump 2020 signs circled the rally, revving their engines and sounding their horns.
Discount grocery store Wenger’s, on the edge of the town, sparked the controversy when it posted a sign earlier this month about people wearing masks to protect themselves from coronavirus.
But point 19 of the 24-point rambling notice said:
‘There are people who got COVID-19 but not all other people living in the same house got it. This proves that COVID-19 is not as contagious as the news media and many others have blown it up to be.
‘A lot of these same people support LGBTQ. This lifestyle is sin in God’s eyes and spreads deadly diseases and sickness. Are they really concerned about people’s health?’
As well as spreading misinformation about coronavirus and mask-wearing, it added:
‘Where will you spend eternity, Heaven or Hell?’
‘Some little gay kid is going to see this’
The store took down the notice a few days later without commenting further.
However, in response, LGBT+ people and their allies organized a Pride protest further along the same road.
Organizers helped protestors maintain social distancing by asking them to wear a color for the rainbow flag. They then marked the various junctions from 1st to 7th streets with the same colors, providing a choice of rallying points.
But it was clear from the outset that the protest was about more than the Wenger’s sign.
One protestor, Trevor Leon said: ‘I am a gay man in central PA who grew up here, around here. It’s hard.
‘Some little gay kid growing up here in Central PA is going to see this and see all the support and hopefully it helps.’
Meanwhile the organizers of the ‘Mifflinburg Pride Event’ were a coalition which could hardly do better at symbolizing allyship and intersectionality. The I Am Alliance, Green New Deal Lewisburg, If Not Us, Then Who?, and Mifflinburg Against Racism and Hate all helped.
Moreover, on the LGBT+ side, protestors waved the African American green, red and black Stars and Stripes flag. They held Black Lives Matter banners alongside placards saying ‘love is love’.
The debate raging across America, in miniature
By contrast, the counter-protestors waved the black and white Stars and Stripes with a blue stripe. While technically this is supposed to support law enforcement in the US, neo-Nazis and other hate groups have also embraced it.
One black van was painted with a sign saying: ‘Obey sodom = takeover + annihilation’.
Meanwhile many counter-protestors also waved Trump 2020 banners and said they were there to ‘support the president’.
As one LGBT+ supportive woman said: ‘Today is about the kind of community we want.’
With the US election looming on 3 November, that question is seeing battle lines drawn, even in a village like Mifflinburg with a population of just 3,540 people.