Politics & Government

HB2 transgender uproar floods YouTube with protest videos

The florescent-lit, linoleum-floored aisles of a retail store might seem like a strange place for a national debate to physically manifest itself, but that appears to be what’s happening across the country. At least, according to videos that have recently begun flooding YouTube.

The most popular of these videos was uploaded to YouTube on Saturday and began trending on Facebook Tuesday night, but it appears to have been shot before or on Mother’s Day. In it, a woman wearing a floral pattern shirt and a long, single braid walks through the aisles of a Target. She’s followed by several men and boys, as she holds a Bible over her head and preaches to the unwitting congregation, who likely banked on a quiet day of last-minute shopping for mom.

“Attention Target customers. Do not be deceived. Target would have you believe with their Mother’s Day displays that they love mothers and children,” she shouts, as shoppers push baskets around her with their heads kept low. “This is a deception. This is not love, and they’ve proven it by opening their bathrooms to perverted men.”

The woman, who claims to be a mother of 12, goes on to say she’s “disgusted with this wicked practice.”

She then yells for mothers to take their children out of the store, which she calls a “dangerous place.”

“Are you going to let the devil rape your children, America?” she screams as people yell back at her. “Instead of bowing to the homosexual, perverted agenda that’s taking over the nation, you need to run from this place.”

One such video might represent an outlier, but that is simply the one that caught Internet users’ attention and went viral, having been viewed nearly half a million times by early Wednesday morning.

In recent days, YouTube has filled with clips of such instances. Uploaded on May 10, a video shows a man in a San Francisco Target shouting similar rhetoric before being confronted by a transgender person, to whom he shouts, “You’re going to hell.” Another video, which has a title screen reading “Portland Christians Take A Stand Against Targets [sic] Pro Pervert Bathroom Policy. Awake Unto Righteousness!!! [sic]” -- the video does not specify which Portland -- features a man in jean shorts marching with several others, shouting anti-LGBT rhetoric. Another displays a man walking near a Target’s bathrooms, shouting for its customers to repent. Another features a man telling customers, “Target, this is your wake-up call.” Finally, another is more of the same.

These videos are another example of Target’s unusual centrality in the debate surrounding transgender “bathroom” policies. The debate arguably began in North Carolina, where a hotly contested bill disallowing transgender individuals from using the public bathroom that best fit their gender identity, became law. Various entities -- from musicians to corporations to porn distributors -- protested the bill.

But Target placed itself in the crosshairs of those who believe bathrooms should only be used by those whose birth certificate matches the plastic placard on their doors when it released a statement on April 19 announcing that individuals can use whichever bathroom fits their gender identities. As The Washington Post reported, the policy isn’t unusual in and of itself. Apple, Comcast, Time Warner, Ford, Chevrolet, American Airlines, United, Southwest, Nordstrom, Sears, Coca-Cola and many, many other companies -- more than 400 -- support similar policies.

They just didn’t publicly announce them.

Almost immediately, the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based religious non-profit organization founded by First United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildmon, posted an online petition calling for a boycott of Target. As of early Wednesday morning, it had reached 1.25 million signatures.

Now, it appears extremist Christian groups are marching through the aisles of the stores around the country in protest.

One group is taking it even further. A site called LifeSiteNews.com, which according to its “about” page was “originally started by Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), a Canadian national pro-life organization headquartered in Toronto, Canada” has taken its protest of the law -- it uses the hashtag (hash)FlushTarget -- on the road.

According to a post on its website, the group will be sending a large truck, decorated with the image of a young girl wearing a shocked look as she faces a man in a bathroom, to every Target in Minnesota. (The company is headquartered in Minneapolis.) The organization announced plans to visit other states with the truck, if it can raise the necessary funds.

Though the company has not responded to the in-store protests, last week Target CEO Brian Cornell said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the company will not reverse its policy.

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