On Saturday September 10, a group of Nazareth business owners & community members held a “Nazareth Together” event in response to backlash they recieved for placing pro-LGBT and pro-inclusion signs on their properties. In a letter published in early August, the far right anti-LGBT group Parents for Choice expressed concern that local business owners were part of a “dark and insidious campaign” that was pushing “LGBTQ+ and transgender ideology” on their children. The event was covered by WFMZ and the Morning Call. But both outlets left out key facts, presenting their readers with a false impression of the event.
Several speakers read statements submitted by individuals not physically in attendance. At least one of those speakers admitted this was due to safety concerns. And those concerns were valid. Known far right goon and January 6 insurrectionist Benjamin Jacques was in attendance with several of his associates.
Jacques was also allowed to speak at the event. In fact, he got the last word. WFMZ’s coverage was particularly misleading in this regard.
“I, personally, do not agree with the sign, and the only reason why is I think that if there’s a racist person in Nazareth, we should call them out,” WFMZ reported Jacques saying, referring to him only as a representative of Parents for Choice.
But WMFZ failed to acknowledge essential context. Jacques spoke for over 8 minutes in a bizarre, often incoherent rant full of blatant lies and non-sequiturs that eventually inspired heckles, a question regarding his involvement in January 6, and an accusation of bullying. WFMZ, however, chose to interpret this through the words of an unnamed associate of Jacques.
“A man who was with him noted off camera, ‘This speaker was the only one interrupted by the audience as he shared his view,’”
Jacques’ speech started with the strange declaration that Nazareth is his “Pleasantville,” perhaps a reference to a movie starring Toby Maguire & Reese Witherspoon. Ironically, the film was about a fictional 1950’s sitcom town that was seemingly perfect, but devoid of any real forms of individual expression or personal freedom. The lead characters introduce modern art, literature, and literal color to the monochrome Pleasantville. As a result, they are treated as dangerous radicals by the conservative mayor of the town. The town government eventually bans “colored” people from public venues and instigates a pogrom against them. “Colored” businesses are looted. Books are burned. Perhaps metaphor isn’t Jacques strong suit. Or maybe that’s what Jacques is planning to get up to.
Jacques continued, “Ever since I stepped foot in Nazareth, race has never been used as a weapon against me.” Jacques is, by his own admission, a white Latino. Instead of recognizing that he may be treated differently than others because he passes as white, Jacques then goes on to argue that “speaking of race does not belong in this town,” because Martin Luther King, Jr. told us to judge people on the content of their character, and that “If there’s a racist person in Nazareth, I personally will tell them to get the hell out.”
Jacques is personal friends with Nazareth business owner and fellow January 6 insurrectionist Amie Eckert. CROH documented Amie’s public displays of racism and transphobia in our article covering her far-right activism in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, including her bus charter to DC on January 6. There is no record of Jacques ever telling Eckert to leave town.
Jacques then went on to say that it must be the content of his character that ensures that he has good interactions with the police, insinuating that anyone who has had bad interactions with Nazareth police have poor character. He then admits that he belongs to Parents for Choice, insisting that they are not white supremacists (no one asked), but just parents with concerns that they want brought to the table. This is when the heckling started.
One person in the crowd asked why Jacques wanted to boycott the businesses with inclusive signage. He said that he did not want to. Another asked why he went to DC on January 6. He replied, “Oh, this again,” without further comment. A bit later, another in the crowd told Jacques to, “Stop bullying people.”
“Oh yeah, stop bullying people, too.” A nonsensical response.
When Jacques finished his speech and headed toward the back of the pavilion, the MC for the event quickly closed the open mic portion. “We’re out of time,” she said. Jacques was given the last word. The local business owners who run Nazareth Together seem more invested in giving local fascists a platform to lie about their aims than they are in creating space for marginalized voices at their events. How many LGBT residents did not show because they knew there would be dangerous bigots at the event? How many LGBT residents did show up, and had to listen to a dangerous bigot lie?