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PromiseKeepers meet with protest
By Wes Brown & Mike Murphy
Protest-minded Londoners kept their promise Saturday afternoon, as they staged an informational demonstration across the street from the PromiseKeepers convention held at Western's Thompson arena.
Megan Walker, London's Ward 6 Councillor who joined about 100 others on the corner of Sarnia and Western Roads to protest, said she felt the Christian men's group advocated subordination of women, homophobia and intolerance of non-Christians.
"We want to provide the City of London with an alternative view to the PromiseKeeper's message," she said.
About midway through the hour-long afternoon protest, PromiseKeepers delegates began to drift over to Elborn College and engage demonstrators in civil, but spirited conversations.
"I'd heard they'd been protesting against the organization of the thing, but I had no idea they were going to be here," said Fred Keast, who was attending the conference.
"I just wanted to ensure them, this is my first PromiseKeeper's meeting and I didn't hear anything in there that was putting women down nothing but elevating women to equal status," Keast said.
A South Secondary School student on hand for the protest, Aaron Ferner, said he was disappointed the conference was happening on Western's campus. "This is something that will affect my decision, as far as [choosing] universities."
Western's VP-administration Peter Mercer, said as a publicly funded university, Western rents its facilities on a commercial basis without necessarily sharing the views of those to whom it rents.
Protest or not, the PromiseKeepers were not going to let their spirits be dampened, said David Sweet, chief executive officer and president of PromiseKeepers Canada.
"We have close to 5,000 men here today. Some of them have driven four, five, even six hour drives to be here," Sweet said. "Folks are always going to think that 'something bad is going on' when that many men get together in one location."
Sweet said Saturday's men-only portion of the conference featured several guest speakers, all driving home three key points of the PromiseKeepers' mission statement. "All we're teaching men is how to be better fathers, better husbands and better members of the community," he said.
Sweet said his group did not experience any setbacks due to the protest and added he did not feel the two sides would resort to violence.
Both the London Police and the University Police Department were on hand throughout the afternoon. Const. Ian Baldock of the UPD, said there were no altercations between the two groups.
Western's student life program manager, Bob Gough, attended the protest not as a university employee but as a concerned citizen, he said, adding the protest had created a buzz on campus. "We've got a lot of questions and interest, which is important for an informational protest."
Gough said his main disagreement was the PromiseKeepers are not a religious organization and yet he said he believed they publicly tell men to take back the family under a religious pretense.