Monday, April 6, 2009

Firsthand Account of Snuffy Pfleger's Lobbying Day

INDENTTonight the irrepressible and inimitable Tom Shafer regaled the monthly meeting of the Sangamon County Rifle Association with tales of his up close and uncomfortably personal encounter with Father Michael "Snuffy" Pfleger:

Pro Tip: Lobbying Days Require Grassroots, Not Astroturf
INDENTYou may remember that Illinois gun owners had our Lobbying Day at the state capitol in Springfield on March 11. One week later, Snuffy Pfleger had his own Lobbying Day on March 18. He brought several buses down from Chicago to lobby for passage of HB0048, the bill that would have made it illegal to transfer a gun in Illinois without first giving it over to a federally-licensed gun dealer--even if you were loaning or giving the gun. This bill was the absolute top priority for the gun banners in Illinois, so Snuffy organized a bus trip for three groups of people: members of his St. Sabina's Catholic Church, students from the Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, and students from Howard University in Washington, D.C. The Simeon kids were here in memory of a classmate who was killed at a basketball game, while the Howard University kids were on an "Alternative Spring Break" on which they were supposed to be "addressing gun violence."
INDENTThe interesting part is that Tom lucked into the chance to attend the event when he was visiting the capitol on other business that same day and happened to hear Rep. Edward "Don't You Know Who I Am?" Acevedo say something about going out to "the gun rally." He followed the group outside, where Pfleger's folks were disembarking from their buses, and joined the demonstration.

INDENTTom estimated that the crowd at its largest was between 80 and 100 people. I found that very interesting, since I've had a chance to crunch some numbers. Remember the kids from Simeon Career Academy and Howard University? Well, here are the numbers for those:
INDENTMy arithmetic makes that 54+14=68 college students bused in from 900 miles away, in addition to ~50 students bused down on school buses on a school day to be used as political props (nothing new for Chicago Public Schools.) That's 118 blades of astroturf. If we're extra generous, assume Tom was wrong, and they must have gotten 150 or so, that still means that roughly 80% of their "grassroots citizen lobbyists" were school kids taking the day off or college kids from four states away. Compare that to the numbers IGOLD generated--with everyone paying his own way--and you can see why legislators were not jumping on the Pfleger bandwagon.

"I Love You, I Hate You, I Just Don't Know Anymore"
INDENT"Ma'am, I'm from Springfield. Can I get some of your materials, please?" Tom asked the big, happy lady at the door of the bus.
INDENT"Well, of course!" she said. "You're doing the right thing. I just love you!"
INDENT"I do appreciate that, ma'am, but I'm from the pro-gun side of things . . . ."
INDENT"Well, then, I guess I just hate you!"
INDENT"Well, ma'am, I still love you."

Good Touches and Bad Touches: The Hand of Pfleger
INDENTAt one point, after Pfleger was done haranguing the crowd and embarassing Dan Kotowski, Tom walked up to him and asked him whether he regretted calling for John Riggio and state legislators to be "snuffed out." That's when things got weird. According to Tom, Pfleger reacted by grabbing his shirt with one hand, which caused both police and Chicago school students to close in a bit and look edgy, then began "stroking (me) with his other hand. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I just told him to keep it above the waist, buddy," Tom told the group. As he "stroked" Tom, he explained that his comments had been taken out of context and that he'd never actually said he wanted anyone to hurt John Riggio. The video is at the top of this post; I'll let you decide for yourself whether Pfleger was unfairly taken out of context. Also whether he's a howling maniac.

Playing In Traffic
INDENTDuring IGOLD, several thousand gun owners marched across 2nd Street in Springfield and gathered in front of the Lincoln statue on the capitol lawn. We had to get them all across the street safely and then keep everyone out of the street, because 2nd Street is a city bus route and we couldn't block it (it can be done, with the right permit, but there's so much extra work fitting yourself to the bus schedule that it isn't worth it.) Pfleger's group didn't have a permit to block any streets, much less a main artery like 2nd, but according to Tom, they decided that was the best way to get some attention. There were scattered shouts to the effect that they would jump into 2nd Street and stop traffic. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was supposed to be; maybe just pure mischief. In any case, the kindly police officers escorting the group quashed that particular brainstorm so early that no one was hit by a bus, which I suppose is for the best.
INDENTFinally, Snuffy, sensing that no one was going to cover this circus and knowing that the planned vote/spectacle on HB0048 was not going to happen because the votes weren't there, decided to try one last attention-getting tantrum: he and his merry band announced their intention to "storm the Governor's Office and occupy it." Contrast that with IGOLD, when Governor Quinn refused to meet with us, but Thirdpower and I chatted amiably with his secretary and the Ladies of IGOLD presented an assistant with Quinn's plaque.
In any case, it was not to be. The Secretary of State's Police officers suggested, as Tom put it, that "that would be a very bad idea." Disappointed, and with opportunities for mischievous street theater exhausted, Pfleger loaded his merry band on the buses and went home.