A group of protesters displaying signs lined both sides of the road in front of Cornerstone Church Sunday morning on Bank Street Road.
The protesters expressed their distaste for a group of people that are scheduled to speak at the location next month. The ReAwaken America Tour was recently cancelled in Rochester due to pressure on the venue operator from musical acts that canceled their appearances and pressure from the public. For prior coverage, go here for protest and here for the tour.
The tour has since relocated to Batavia at Cornerstone Church in the Town of Batavia. Many Christian leaders issued a message that they were against the event due to the controversial content talked about during the event. That reportedly has included unproven conspiracy theories and racist themes.
Jim Burns, organizer of the Batavia protest, said the protest group was created with the help of local pastors in the GLOW region, and they are hoping to reach members of the Cornerstone Church as they arrive for their Sunday morning sermon at 10 a.m.
"This group was put together and spearheaded by them," Burns said. "They were very upset and moved emotionally. Some were brought to tears saying they could not believe a church was hosting (the ReAwaken tour) to come in and talk like they are going to talk."
Burns says he wanted to be involved and organize the protest because of the division he is seeing along with the devaluation of human life.
"It's unbelievable to me, the people that are coming to this church in a couple weeks are sowing division. We need to stop this as a country," he said. "The Democratic party does it, the Republican party does it. It's time for it to stop, and as American citizens, we need to stop it. This is all about division and the hatred that comes with it. We are all Americans and shouldn't be enemies to ourselves."
Burns said he has no political or religious affiliations. He believes people have the right to assemble.
"Most people here are not going to like my view with that. We have the right to be here and the church has the right to host them, we all have the right to be heard, and that's the way America should work; it's not one side or the other saying the other side can't do that," he said. "I am out here protesting the people who are coming and their beliefs, absolutely one hundred percent. I am absolutely a nobody. I am just a citizen. Everybody here has their own personal reasons to be here, some are affiliated with other groups. They are here because of the racism; they are here because they think Batavia is a better town and shouldn't be hosting this."
Many protesters had their own reasons to show up to the Sunday protest.
"We've been here holding our signs spreading a message of love and tolerance. It's very encouraging because there are a lot of people in Batavia who don't stand for these terrible fascist, racist ideas, it's really good to see," said protester Logan Cole.
The protest started about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday as members of the Cornerstone Church were arriving for a 10 a.m. sermon. The church had security on hand and did have to intervene after a woman from the Cornerstone property crossed the road and attempted to pull a sign down from another woman’s face and take her photo. A member of the church with a radio responded across the street and collected the woman, telling her to not engage with protesters. She was escorted back onto the church property, which was roped off with yellow tape. The protest ended at about 10:15 a.m.
Top photo: Protesters displaying messages to members of Cornerstone Church as they arrived for service Sunday morning. A short time later a church member tried to pull down one woman's sign and take her photo (on the left). Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful, peaceful protest for about 45 minutes at the Bank Street Road, Batavia church. Church security escorted the member back to the church as protesters continued on with their mission. Photos by Alecia Kaus.