BLM Protestors Clash with Racist Church

At the Grace Baptist Church, in Troy, NY, videos of a Black Lives Matter protest have gone viral as protesters disrupted the raffling off of an AR-15 assault rifle. The church has been raffling off assault rifles since 2014, as the church claims the right to bear arms is biblically based.

This year, ahead of the raffle, John Koletas, the Pastor at Grace Baptist, posted on Facebook, “Defend your family against the savages. Buy a gun! Or come to church and win one.” What brought Black Lives Matter protesters to this year’s church’s raffle was the announcement of the raffle on the church’s website and the audio archive of Mr. Koletas’ sermons. The online announcement included rules for attending the raffle, including: 

“BLM-like masks or ANTIFA-like masks or baklava-like headwear will not be permitted.”

“As always, there will be a slice of ham (the Bible word is swine) outside the front church doors. Everyone entering the building for the service is required to touch the ham before entering the building. Anyone refusing to touch the ham outside the front church doors is not permitted to enter the building. Grace Baptist Church reserves the right to allow any Orthodox or Hasidic Jew to enter without touching the ham.”

Muslims are not offered the same dispensation. In fact, in one of his past sermons, Mr. Koletas stated:

I don’t think we ought to allow any Muslims into our country because if you believe in the Sharia Law and you believe what Mohammed taught, it’s incompatible with the Constitution.”

BLM protesters verified that the rules they found online were enforced at the raffle.

“They passed around a piece of pork,” explained Marianna Unser, a protester from the Capital District. “Before entering the church everyone was required to touch the piece of pork.”  

Protesters were not surprised by what happened at the church. 

“{We} were not really there just because of the AR-15 raffle; it’s been known for a while that this church is where all the racist white conservatives go,” explained Taylor Nuessle, another protester from the Capital District.

Protesters were surprised by the way the events were reframed in the media to make the protestors look bad. 

This tweet was created by Charlie Kirk, the founder of the ultra-conservative grass roots organization Turning Point USA. Kirk is known for spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media platforms and more than once he’s been temporarily banned from Twitter for spreading disinformation related to COVID.

Moving forward, protesters say they will need to reevaluate how their protests will be viewed, especially on social media platforms like Twitter.

“Just like social media can be used to help our cause, it can just as easily be used to destroy it,” says Nuessle.

As the video tops a million views and continues to rise, some may question the wisdom of street protests in the age of social media but finding new ways to dissent won’t be easy. 

“I understand why people would be scared, after a video like that coming out. It may be scary to think of how people may view you due to how the video is framed” says Unser. 

Understanding why and how their story was manipulated may require protesters in the future to present their ideas in ways that appear less violent and disrespectful. 



Categories: Issues, News

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