It‘s not just the clergy who are part of the effort. After anti-abortion groups began harassing people who voted in the ballot in early October, the Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan group from Ohio, began recruiting musicians to create musical distractions on the lines. where tensions were mounting. The group can even hire magicians for this purpose.
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In North Carolina, the Poor People’s Campaign, an anti-poverty group, organized 5,000 clergy across the country to help voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election, a group it calls the “prophetic council.” Last weekend, when a Conservative group threatened to send agents to follow a community leader in Greensboro, NC whom they accused of electoral fraud, pastors were sent to ensure she did not was not harassed, according to Rev. William Barber II, a minister with the group.
“We did not become increasingly engaged; we know how to do it, ”he said.
Ohio clergy got a taste last weekend of the tensions that could arise in the city of New Philadelphia. A Unitarian pastor has been dispatched to the town, 50 miles south of Akron, after armed Republicans and Democrats gathered near an early polling site. The two camps eventually dispersed and fired no shots.
During the training, Ms. Van Becelaere described techniques for defusing other conflicts that might arise. Offer water to someone who gets angry, she says. If a group is harassing people online, try chanting “Happy Birthday” out loud to create a distraction.
The pastor released an instructional video on how to capture people who bully voters by circling attackers in a horseshoe shape, protecting voters while giving intruders a way to easily leave the premises.
As representatives of the clergy, pastors hope they will have more confidence in both sides than partisan election observers who might also be present on election day. And unlike the police, who might be called upon to mediate a dispute, many pastors have experienced violent disarmament situations without the use of weapons.
During the training, Joseph R. Henry, a retired chaplain in Cincinnati, recalled a time in the 1970s when he was doing charitable work as a seminary student, and a man took it. grabbed by the tie and threatened to throw him over a railing. By remaining calm and not fighting back, Mr. Henry said he was able to defuse the situation and escape.