11-5-17 Warwick Protest Photos
Let the reader use discernment:
I was disfellowshipped in June of last year. While I've been awake for nearly a year, I still often feel groggy. My wife's been a godsend, in the proverbial sense, but there are so many uniquely-JW things that are difficult to explain to a non-JW. That's what sparked my curiosity in the Warwick protest I'd first heard about on this site.
We spent too much of our Saturday looking for an exact time, location, or itinerary, all to no avail. We nonetheless made the hourlong trek from our cozy Queens apartment to Ringwood State Park, In the Middle of Nowhere, NY. We were the third apostate party at the apostate party. All arrived around 1:00 PM, the previously-unknown-to-us scheduled start time. There were friendly but, at times, painfully awkward interactions. I felt like I was at an assembly. My wife preferred the heated car to "my" crowd.
Spike R graciously fielded all the "You're the teddy bear?" questions posed him. I didn't know who he was, but he struck me as gentle, humble, and sincere. I could see he was a good elder in a former life.
I nearly mistook Parker's (aka "Fateful Slave") arrival for that of a celebrity's at the MET Gala. Some fan-boyed and he did not seem to mind. I didn't know who he was, either. We shook hands but didn't speak beyond that. He brought copies of his book along to award deserving apostates, even interrupting Neil Gardner's (aka "The Great Apostate") part on the symposium to offer it as the prize for correctly answering an apostate trivia question. I felt like I was at the unwholesome version of a JW gathering where we'd take turns guessing which Bible character we were in exchange for "extra days of everlasting life". He also used his outdoor voice (to be fair, we were outdoors) while again hijacking Neil's part to answer phone calls. I found his style of apostasy to be very niche. I don't know; I think I'm just not a fan of suits in sneakers.
I'm not familiar with Neil's work on YouTube, but I'm leaving him a 5-star review on Yelp. We introduced ourselves and instantly liked him. He seemed kind, genuine, and unassuming. My wife liked his accent, anyway. I think he would be a good public ambassador for this movement, as he's very intelligent, likable, and seems normal.
Joel Martz arrived around then and I introduced myself. I'm not sure what his responsibilities were within the organization, but something about our exchange reminded me of the way certain self-inflated "prominent" ones dealt with those of little benefit to them. I know I look young and therefore statistically less likely to have scaled high or have been devout, but I didn't know who he was either. I suppose his mind could've been elsewhere; I'lll give him the benefit of a doubt.
Someone brought a mic and an amp, but there was clearly no program or much else, for that matter. I think if all truly cared about reaching their supposed targets, they would've dressed in a way more palatable for them. Some wore sweat pants, trench coats, even disguises! There was a lot of Superhero apparel, which I hardly think is coincidental, though perhaps subconscious. And here I had even trimmed my beard and worn a sweater vest! The few signs there were had to be covered, at the police's request. They kept an eye on us, but their camp was in the apostate corner.
Neil, Parker, Joel, Gilbert from JW Crisis, Spike R, Spoonfednomore, and a few others spoke. I noticed the common denominator for most of them was an apostate YouTube channel in need of content. I'm not insinuating all of them were there for this reason alone, but I think too many were. A former elder, or a rising YouTube star (I don't know who these people are) told his tale, making sure to include his and his son's partaking of the emblems at the most recent Memorial. I scratched my head about that one for a while. Do/did they really believe they were/are anointed? I would've probably stayed in if I was anointed. Could've made GB...
Once the YouTube stars and Christ's brother spoke, the open mic session was over. It was only then that the logistics of the protest in front of the HQ were discussed. Gilbert took the lead and it was actually decided that we break up into car groups and head to the territory in question. He made an analogy to the spies of Jericho and the group went forth. I looked around and wondered if anyone else realized that this was a meeting for field service. It was also amazing how many JW traits were still at play with many of these folks, ranging from their humor to their humble-bragging about former privileges. When asked, I disclosed I had been at Bethel 3 years and even my wife remarked that the reactions creeped her out. They still had the glow in their eyes a diehard JW has when hearing that name. It goes without saying that the Missus insisted we drive ourselves to HQ. I felt like those couples that would go to the meeting for field service and say they had a study straight away and had to go alone, only to return immediately home and hide the car.
For those unfamiliar with the Empire's new digs, everything about Warwick was meticulously designed with every possible scenario in mind, including this one. For instance, there really is no way to protest near the gates without trespassing. You have to stand across the road with two-way traffic in between. It's not safe and a large protest is not possible. The sprinklers were turned on and either spun a full 180 degrees or Watchtower had pointed them in the direction of the cement driveway. There's no safe place to park nearby, either. None of this is coincidental. Furthermore, the long driveway leading to the gates is guarded by watchmen in a booth outside. Inside a pickup truck was parked for added security. Police hid nearby in case things got testy.
We stayed in our car and waited to see what the other would do. It took less than 10 minutes for two protesters to make fools of themselves by walking into the sprinklers Watchtower had clearly turned on for them. That was exactly the behavior Watchtower expected to see. It accomplished nothing besides potentially getting them sick and cementing the propaganda that apostates are crazy. I was disappointed to see Gilbert leading this comic display.
After that, I decided to just take pictures and speak to a few of the other protesters. The police came when a few of the YouTube apostates theatrically slow-walked up to the gates, but left without addressing the protesters. A few people honked in support as they drove by, but that road doesn’t see much traffic and the facilities are so far from the gate, I doubt more than the handful of Bethelites that exited or were charged with security took note. Joel stated that the local congregations received instruction to cancel preaching activities in the area on 10/4, though I cannot confirm that. The park ranger did say someone had called his office to ask that the protest be shut down, citing concerns for his or her family's safety.
I tried multiple times to not be an introvert and connect with protesters but there was inevitably that huge homeschooled-JW-social-awkwardness factor or their stories took turns that seemed unlikely or exaggerated. I left after getting the photos below, and they left not long after. There was a very local TV outlet there, but no one else from the community turned out. There were only about 40 protesters there, as shown in the pictures. I did make my first apostate friends with some folks who are still in and privy to documents detailing specific incidents of child sex abuse, who I’m hoping to collaborate with.
I couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of how the poor weather would be used as the setting for a story about how Jehovah delivered His House from the hands of the evil apostates and how it surely signaled the imminence of the Great Tribulation. Very little was accomplished but I don't regret going. I think it provided guidance regarding the type of advocacy I want to engage in and gave me inspiration for meaningful action.
As I mentioned in another thread, these things need to be more organized and folks need to examine why they’re really doing it. I felt like some were still chasing the prominence that eluded them while members of the organization, which plays beautifully into Watchtower's portrayal of us as sore losers. Others seemed to just want to feel good about themselves, as morpheus bluntly pointed out in another thread. I also felt that, for victims, they seemed too cheerful. Signs alleging abuse or cruelty were held under smiles and laughter. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be happy; I'm saying that even when I was ACTUALLY sick, I would still play it up to make sure my mom would give in. The signs lacked cohesion and some did more to confuse than expose. They also seemed to each have a different grievance to air, and some were in poor taste.
My point is that if protesters can’t take their protests seriously, then neither will Watchtower or anyone else, no matter what their latest YouTube clips say. Whether it’s politically correct or not, some apostates would help more by staying home or using different methods to advocate, as theirs are too often counterproductive. The movement also needs more folks that are relatable, likeable, and had enough clout within the organization to publicly and broadly legitimize the movement and its testimonies. Those who have shouldered heavier responsibilities within the congregation than the average publisher may feel less of a need to chase after creature worship. Maybe. And instead of targeting a JW audience, which is mostly futile, I think a well-balanced, factual, and emotional approach to a secular audience would put more pressure on Watchtower. Anyway, enjoy the pictures. (Update: If they ever upload...)
Sorry, guys. I tried but I'm not savvy enough to figure out how to upload all the photos here so here's the link to the dropbox files in full resolution: https://www.dropbox.com/home/11-5-17%20Warwick%20Protest
At the the end of the day, I hope that they let out whatever they needed to get off their chests.
I appreciate the summary. It was refreshing to read the paragraphs and not have to hear it parroted back, actually
A former elder, or a rising YouTube star (I don't know who these people are) told his tale, making sure to include his and his son's partaking of the emblems at the most recent Memorial. I scratched my head about that one for a while. Do/did they really believe they were/are anointed? I would've probably stayed in if I was anointed. Could've made GB...
There are some JWs on learning TTATT come to a personal realization that being anointed is not exclusive to JWs who believe they have been selected by Jehovah to serve as Kings and Priests in heaven. They take the Bible as being specific to them as being born again Christians. That is why some ex JW Christians will partake at the Hall or privately at home or link up with others to hold their own memorial.
Ray Franz, who also believed that he was anointed, came to a realization that this position (being born again) was for all Christians and wrote about it in his book. He was amongst a group of JWs/Bethelites at HQ that would get together to study the Bible and also believed this.
From what I read, this is the situation with most JWs who hold onto their belief in God believe. Their are a large number of ex JWs that eventually become atheists.
Hey brokenkite -- what a great synopsis. We need more writers with your talent, Please post more as we need fresh -- and talented -- writing.
And kudos to the protesters. It took much effort just to make the trek.
They probably just partook at the Memorial to be rebellious and funny (to some).
Thanks for the summary!
Fantastic summary - it's easy to see where your talent lies! Quite agree the design of the place spells out to me they've Quite knowingly scarpered and are hiding out in their cozy compound, built with the blood sweat and tears of good peoples, mostly now long gone.
But what I'm dying to ask is:
Did y'all wear headbands and wave sticks?!😂😂😂
edit: u might be too young to remember that picture!
Since the late 1800's the Watchtower has been in the business of of systematically recruiting and training people to do their bidding. Since the very beginning, they've collected the money of the individuals they've recruited making it possible to build and then hide behind the iron gates of the empire they've built for themselves.
It's small wonder that a rag tag group of former members, (most of whom are recovering from having their lives forever altered) had difficulty creating the a dramatic impact they had hoped for. An impact that would equal the negative impact the Watchtower Society has had on their lives.
All, that many of us former JW's ask for, is to be heard. We want to be acknowledged and we want to know that someone knows what has happened to us. Many of us would simply go away if that ever happened. Instead of the Watchtower Society taking this opportunity to show Christlike compassion and arranging to meet with these people in one of their auditoriums or even in some public place, they hid within the walls of their resort-like accommodations and turned their lawn sprinklers on them.
It seems to me, that in this day and age, (especially after the Scientology expose) anyone living in the area would be more than a little suspicious of a huge religious organization who builds a complex like the one at Warwick, and then proceeds to surround itself with high walls and manicured grounds and barricade itself off from the community with security gates and high tech security systems. What a fine witness it was for a giant organization who claim to be backed by the true God, to use their sprinklers as a weapon against individuals who's only goal is to be the voice of those who've died from blood loss, those who were abused as children and the countless others who no longer have an intact family.
Much of the Watchtower's operating style has been is based upon secrecy and protecting it's image, so they can recruit new members before they find out what's going on behind the scenes. Individual JW's had no idea the scope of what was happening within the organization. Most having difficulties, thought their situation was an isolated incident...a unique case.
At first glace, it might seem like the efforts of this weekends protest group may have been a bit futile , but it's a beginning. This effort, combined with all that has gone before it and will come after it, will eventually little by little, one by one, add up to something that can't be ignored. One day, anyone (except for born in children) who joins the organization will do so knowing the other side of the story that has always been hidden, in the past.
My sympathies. As you say you are glad you went along.
re protesters behaviour being big smiles under sad banners. I was a Union delegate and we had a protest once after months of prevarication by our employer. At the protest of some serious stuff the silly members were all joking laughing and the like. some even started tickling each other.. yes these are adults.Yes the press were there.
I gave them a rocketing later about the way to conduct yourself at such gatherings.
Anyone watching with an 'open eye' might wonder why these protestors were so disorganised. The answer is plain its because of years of never being permitted to think, to act, to have serious personal opinion or be ever, ever allowed to speak against the 'party-line'. Democracy? the jw have not got a clue.