BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – After learning on Facebook about the anti-LGBTQ protests outside the home of Brevard Public School Board member Jennifer Jenkins’ home Thursday evening, neighbor Cara Sexton arrived at the Jenkinses’ with her 12-year-old daughter Abby and some colored chalk.
Earlier in the day, Jenkins invited people to come by and draw rainbows on her driveway and sidewalks where the homophobic protesters had gathered hours before as a way of countering their movement by expressing love not hate, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
Cara and Abby, disgusted by what they heard, wanted to add their message of support in the wake of the protests that had been marked by a man with a bullhorn yelling epithets and slurs and others waving signs with slogans including, “LGBTQ agenda is ungodly,” and “Brevard School Board Approved DANGEROUS ANTI-CHRISTIAN Policies.”
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The protest has drawn disgust and condemnation from people and public figures throughout Brevard and led to calls for counter-protests which in turn gave way to the idea of the sidewalk drawings.
“I have not been able to leave it alone since last night,” Cara Sexton said before she and Abby got down on their hands and knees to start their message.
“It has just made me so angry. … What’s getting lost is that these children are being vilified and all they want is to be able to use the bathroom at school and have a safe place where they’re not going to be ostracized.”
The protesters, who were expected to return Friday night, appeared to be motivated by LGBTQ-affirming Brevard Public School District policies that, in part, allow transgender students to use bathrooms and play on sports teams as the gender with which they identify.
The protest mirrored one outside a March 9 school board meeting; the protesters used vulgar language, referring to LGBTQ people as “perverts” and “pedophiles” and using anti-gay slurs.
Jenkins, her husband and her 4-year-old daughter were not home at the time, but Jenkins said the protesters present Thursday night made vaguely threatening statements, including “Wait until we come back if you thought Jan. 6 was bad,” an apparent reference to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
One protestor told a neighbor they may have mistaken for Jenkins’ husband: “We have a surprise for you.”
They heckled at passersby that they perceived to be unsupportive of their cause, calling them “pedophile lovers.”
Jenkins said Satellite Beach Police Department told her that a man called the station beforehand to inform them they would be protesting. Due to a public easement, the protesters are allowed to stand up to ten feet inside her yard, she said.
Satellite Beach Police Department has not returned requests for comment. Officers were present observing the protest Thursday and will return Friday, Jenkins said.
“It genuinely concerns me, because they’ve had escalation of behavior,” Jenkins said. “I told the police department that. I warned them, ‘they’ve come to the school board meeting and pointed at me, called me out, and now they’re in front of my frickin’ home.’”
Jenkins is the newest member of the School Board. Though school board seats are nonpartisan, the race between her and former board member Tina Descovich divided down party lines; the Democratic Party supported Jenkins, while the Republican Party supported Descovich. After losing to Jenkins, Descovich co-founded Moms for Liberty, a conservative parent advocacy group that has since spread to ten states.
One protestor present at the March 9 school board meeting, Tom Rycroft, who gave his name as “Thomas Jefferson” and yelled vulgar slogans into a bullhorn, was also present at the protest Thursday. Photos circulated on Facebook on Friday of him holding signs in support of Descovich.
Descovich, who for her part received an anonymous package of poop in the mail last month, ostensibly from a detractor, denounced the Thursday protest in a Facebook post. In an interview with FLORIDA TODAY, she said she privately reached out to Rycroft and asked him to stop protesting.
“First and foremost, Jennifer Jenkins is a mom and it’s unacceptable to have that kind of behavior in front of her home,” Descovich said. “I don’t I don’t agree with it. I don’t support it in any way at all and it’s it’s just unacceptable behavior. It’s it’s not good for our community.”
Jenkins has said since the March 9 board meeting that Descovich should share some responsibility for the ugly display because she helped circulate information about the controversial policies on social media.
“I don’t think you can light a match and say that the resulting wildfire isn’t your fault,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the protest has had the side effect of introducing her to her neighbors. People she’d never met waved to her from their cars as she stood in her driveway. More than a dozen people had shown up to draw pictures and scribble messages in brightly colored chalk.
By Friday afternoon, the driveway and sidewalk were covered in rainbow chalk slogans.
Jenkins’ daughter had not yet seen the chalk art because she has been staying with her grandparents. Jenkins said she’s not sure whether she will keep her daughter away from the house while the protesters are present, or how she will explain the situation to her.
“I’ll probably just say, ‘sweet girl, everybody is different and unique and some people don’t like that,’” Jenkins said. “They’re not kind people.”
Bailey Gallion is the education reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at 321-242-3786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.