Tuffy Tuffington is the courageous pioneer behind the dirty protest
His name is Tuffy Tuffington (on Facebook). And he is the man behind a huge upset in San Francisco this past weekend. After catching onto the news that right wing group Patriot Prayer were going to be holding a protest in Crissy Park, near Golden Gate Bridge, he decided to take matters into his own hands and organise a counter protest: “Leave your dog poop on Crissy Field”.
As the event description read: “Leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends. Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business”. Tuffington wanted to create a layer of dog shit for the right wingers. We salute him.
The Patriot Prayer event was then ultimately cancelled and replaced with a press conference, although a small group of about 20 did turn up to Crissy Park and, according to SFGATE news website stood “shade of a large tree in the middle of the field”. Tuffington cancelled his proposed event after the rally was called off.
Following the events of Charlottesville, which left a young woman named Heather Heyer dead at the hands of a white surpremacist, right wing rallies in America are currently occupying a particularly awful space. Patriot Prayer claim that they're motivated by “free speech” concerns, and are not affiliated with nazis or white supremacists, and that their aborted protest was not for them. However, Joey Gibson, the leader of the group, has certainly rubbed shoulders with enough of them during his time.
Dazed spoke to Tuffington about why it's so important to think up radical protest strategies during such a fractious time:
What's your background - and how did it influence your decision to make the poop protest?
Tuffington: I'm an artist and designer in San Francisco. It used to be one of the freakiest places in the country. It's lost a lot of its weirdness, but weekends like this show that the freaks are still here and that humour, absurdity and love still have a voice.
Occasionally, I make protest signs or tshirts. I try to incorporate humour into a lot of what I do. I don't know what possessed me to do something different this time. I guess I've just been very frustrated by the tragedy of events like Charlottesville and Barcelona and the actions and words of our shitty president. I just wanted to do something else than make a clever sign and stand in a crowd yelling.
How do you feel about the event being cancelled? Was this the outcome you wanted?
Tuffington: The cancellation notice was great news. I think the main goal of Patriot Prayer was to provoke some sort of incident. The Park Service and the City did an incredible job controlling access to the park and keeping the various protest groups separated. I thought it was funny that park workers let dogs and press into gated off areas. The same thing happened when Gibson (Patriot Prayer's leader) made his last minute switch to Alamo Square. All of his videos and "press conferences" are conspicuously without any prayers.
In a practical sense how do you think the cleanup would have worked? Saw a lot of people talking about “parvo” on the Facebook event
Tuffington: I was never very worried about the clean-up. We do it every day. The concerns about hookworm and parvo were addressed in the event.
“I just wanted to do something else than make a clever sign and stand in a crowd yelling” – Tuffy Tuffington
Do you think we need to see more radical action like the event you organised to ward off potential fascist gatherings?
Tuffington: This event started out as an absurdist joke that went viral very quickly. I didn't expect it to grow much larger than my friend circle but it obviously resonated with a lot of people. I think because it involved cute dogs and had a sense of humor about it kinda dulls down the rhetoric that constantly gets shouted at events no matter which political group has the bullhorn. The leader of Patriot Prayer reacted to our event by saying that he didn't think that stepping in poo would cause any to pause and think “Oh, maybe I should change my ideology!” and that's excatly how we feel... This event in San Francisco wasn't going to change anyone's hearts or minds either. It's shit. So that's we answered it.
I think we need to see more ludicrous responses to make these people look like idiots. I liked the protest organised by the clowns. It's hard to take these people seriously when there's someone marching alongside playing the tuba, covering them in glitter, blowing bubbles. But I think it's important to stand up regardless of tactic. Not everyone is capable of placing themselves in potential harms way and peaceful, passive resistance can be just as powerful.