With the announcement that members of a Kansas-based hate group planned to picket the funerals of Christina-Taylor Green, Judge John M. Roll and others, Kat Sinclair and a group of volunteers got in action to counter the protesters.
Clad in white clothes and wearing large angel wings, the group stood guard this morning at the corner of Ina and Oracle roads, at the site of Saturday's shootings.
Groups of people wearing angel wings have appeared elsewhere in Tucson with the promise, "The Angels will appear anywhere (the hate group) said they would be, regardless of whether or not they show up."
Sinclair explained that the Angel Project was started more than 10 years ago by Romaine Patterson, a friend of Matthew Shepard, in response to protests at Shepard's funeral. Shepard was a 21-year gay student attacked and killed near Laramie, Wyo., in 1998, targeted because of his sexual orientation. Patterson and a group of friends donned seven-foot angel wings to block the picket signs of the hate-group members. Now angel groups work around the country to stand for tolerance, acceptance and non-violence.
In Tucson, a training session for would-be angels was held on Wednesday, the day of President Obama's visit, said Sinclair. "We are a peaceful group of people well trained. We just wanted to insure that (the hate group) didn't get their voice out there anymore than it needed to be," she said.
Sinclair reported that Tucson Police Department attended the training and has worked closely with the angel groups. "We tell them what we plan to do and let them know what will be happening," she said.
Police officers were present this morning at La Toscana Village, the shopping center at the corner of Ina and Oracle roads. About 20 angels stood silently as witnesses gathered. Hate-group members were not present, nor did they travel to Tucson this week. Sinclair noted that it was a common tactic by this group to announce an upcoming visit and not show up—simply to gain publicity.
Sinclair and volunteers passed out a small information sheet about the Angel Project. It read, "Traditionally formed in Tucson by the PrideAlliance@email.arizona.edu." ASUA Pride Alliance is a group open to LGBTQ individuals, along with all UA staff, faculty and students.
"It's been very interesting to have a lot of straight people and not necessarily allies ... involved. They do it because it needs to be done. This is not a protest. It's a response ... ," said Sinclair. She indicated that several volunteers had past dealings with the hate group and were angels at other gatherings.
"The Angel Project is a tradition. When the need arises, they show up," said Sinclair.
After the angel volunteers removed their wings, they gathered in the parking lot across the street on the southwest corner of the Ina and Oracle.
As they said their goodbyes to Sinclair, they embraced and thanked her for coordinating the angel appearances. "Whatever is needed, I do," she said.