Gay hiking

Anti-gay protesters met by counter-protesters in Guerneville

After a three-week hiatus, Guerneville Plaza was once again the site of anti-gay protesters who some locals say are simply hate mongers.

Some self-proclaimed members of the “Pizza Box Brigade” rallied on Wednesday to counter the protest.

Holding handmade signs painted on pizza boxes, the counter-protesters said the protesters were spreading the kind of message that is not welcome in their notorious gay-friendly city.

Suzy Kuhr, owner of Smart Pizza in the square, was among those holding up a sign on Wednesday that read, “Jesus loves me and my girlfriend.”

She said the religious protesters, who come from various other areas outside Guerneville, appeared to target the square which is surrounded by businesses and homes, shouting at pedestrians not to eat in her business because of the flag. LGBTQ rainbow displayed in front.

“There was no effect, if anything, we’re getting more business,” Kuhr said.

“There is no place for hate here, Kuhr said from his pizzeria, as protesters continued to shout outside. “It’s not necessary.”

The idea for the Pizza Box Brigade came from one of its employees, Louis Britton, who was the first person to paint a pizza box sign about three weeks ago. Someone took a photo of him standing next to the religious protesters and that photo has been circulating the internet, including Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins’ Facebook page.

“They got pretty evil – I just took it in stride,” Britton said.

So Kuhr and other nearby business owners, including the owners of Sonoma Nesting Company, formed the “Pizza Box Brigade”, donating pizza boxes and painting them for distribution in case the anti-gay group would return.

And they did. So the six-person group, who said they were not part of any official organization, outnumbered at least twice as many counter-protesters on Wednesday.

Loi Nguyen, of San Francisco, a member of the anti-gay religious group, said they had held similar protests across California, including at UC Berkeley, Sebastopol and San Francisco, but were focusing on Guerneville due pedestrian traffic.

The group, whose members hail from Oakland, San Francisco, Mendocino County and Humboldt County, said it was there to spread “God’s message.”

But, the way they delivered that message – using megaphones, playing gospel music and shouting at pedestrians – warranted numerous calls to law enforcement.

sergeant. Ryan Russell of the Sonoma County Sheriff‘s Office was in the plaza Wednesday to “find common ground” with religious protesters, dissolve tensions and reduce disruption to local businesses.

He managed to get the band to stop using megaphones. They left soon after.

Jake Hamlin, co-owner of the Sonoma Nesting Company, an antique store near the plaza, said it was hard to ignore their “screams and howls”.

He said he could even hear them from inside his house which is next to his business.

He hopes the pizza box signs will show the community that the city remains a place full of love and acceptance.

And Hamlin hopes the community’s message to anti-gay protesters is clear: “Please get out of our town.” You don’t live here.