Some of the protesters planning to welcome Vice President Mike Pence to Colorado Springs on Friday will be wearing red robes and white bonnets from the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a fundamentalist society that treats women as property, organizers told Colorado Politics.
“It’s our way of making kind of a shocking statement,” said Ryan Barry of Unite Colorado Springs, one of the groups putting together a rally to greet Pence when he shows up to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian organization headquartered in Briargate on the north side of Colorado Springs.
When Pence arrives to speak at the Focus chapel, protest organizers wrote in a social media post, “We will be there to greet him with peaceful resistance. We will rally to show Mike Pence and Focus on the Family that this community rejects hatred and bigotry in all its hideous forms.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” a 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, gained renewed attention this spring when it was the basis of a Hulu TV series, inspiring some protesters across the country to don the distinctive garb.
“It’s a way of showing that Focus on the Family and Mike Pence stand for very restrictive, ‘traditional’ gender roles, opposition to choice for women and anti-LGBTQ positions,” Barry said, noting that plenty of the protesters won’t be wearing the “Handmaid’s Tale” outfits. “This is the way they see Focus, this backwards organization that’s promoting stuff that’s far beyond what most of us would consider applicable for modern society.”
Barry said it bothers him that Pence, who has “has made it very clear he is not OK with LGBTQ people,” will be “lending legitimacy” to Focus and its message.
“For the LGBTQ community,” he said, “it’s been an overwhelmingly destructive force.”
Barry acknowledged that Jim Daly, who took over from founder James Dobson to head Focus in 2009, has softened some of the organization’s rhetoric but said it doesn’t matter. “The language has been slightly less hostile than it has been in the past, but it’s the same message,” he said. “Unless they literally apologize to the LGBTQ community for what they’ve done, to me, it’s empty words.”
While Focus hasn’t reversed its conservative positions, Daly made a point a few years ago of backing off from the front lines of the culture wars and shifting its tone on some topics.
Whatever they’re wearing, protest organizers said — some have been trading tips on constructing white bonnets, others have been tracking down rainbow flag accessories — the protesters intend to show Pence and Focus “what real family values are: love, compassion, justice, liberty, equality, and fighting for the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the sick and the elderly.”
Barry said he expects upwards of 100 protesters to show up Friday morning at the “peaceful resistance” rally, which is also being organized by the Colorado Springs chapter of the Colorado Action Network, the Pikes Peak Progressives and the Colorado Springs Socialists.
Pence’s appearance won’t be open to the public due to security and capacity concerns, Focus officials said earlier this month.