Robbie Pierce, his husband and their two younger kids have been having fun with a scenic practice journey on the Pacific coast, a peaceable prelude to their spring break getaway. But on the finish of their journey from their dwelling in Los Angeles to Oakland, California, the couple stated a person sitting throughout the aisle turned their household trip right into a nightmare.
“He started yelling across me and shouting, ‘Remember what I told you!’” Pierce recalled, saying the person’s remarks have been directed at his 6-year-old son. “The next thing he said was, ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman. They stole you, and they’re pedophiles.’”
The shouting began because the Amtrak practice was stopped at Diridon Station in San Jose, Pierce stated. Immediately, he and his husband, Neal Broverman, stood up and acquired in between the unidentified man and their kids, who began sobbing.
“I’m not a big guy, but I wasn’t nervous,” Broverman stated. “When you’re dealing with your children and you feel like they’re being threatened, you’re kind of fearless. It’s kind of that mom lifting the car scenario, but it was hideous, and it was not stopping.”
The man continued to shout on the household of 4, yelling, “That’s not a family! You’re rapists and pedophiles. You steal Black and Asian children and you rape them,” Pierce and Broverman stated. The couple has an adopted son, who’s Black, and a 5-year-old Asian American foster daughter.
Before talking with NBC News in regards to the Tuesday evening incident, the pair documented the occasion in a now-viral Twitter thread. Along with detailing the encounter, the couple positioned blame for the incident on the current uptick in charged rhetoric regarding LGBTQ points.
In current weeks, conservative politicians and pundits have been characterizing opponents of Florida’s newly enacted Parental Rights in Education invoice — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” invoice by its critics — as making an attempt to “groom” or “indoctrinate” kids, and in some circumstances accusing them of being “pro-pedophile.”
The laws bans instructing about sexual orientation or gender id “in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Opponents of the measure say that it might stop youths and lecturers from overtly speaking about themselves and their households and that it’s “designed to attack LGBTQI+ kids.”
At the Florida bill-signing ceremony in late March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s extensively believed to be contemplating a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, slammed the legislation’s critics, saying they “support sexualizing kids in kindergarten” and “camouflage their true intentions.” He added that the legislation would guarantee “that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”
Last week, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tweeted that “Democrats are the party of killing babies, grooming and transitioning children, and pro-pedophile politics,” in reference to the Florida laws. And from March 17 by way of April 6, Fox News aired 170 segments on transgender points and recurrently characterised the laws’s opponents as “groomers” and “predators,” in line with a report by Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit media watchdog.
The phrase “grooming” has lengthy been related to mischaracterizing LGBTQ folks, notably homosexual males and transgender girls, as youngster intercourse abusers and had, at the least previously decade, seemed to be relegated to the margins of the far-right motion.
Pierce and Broverman stated this was not the primary time their household has had hate directed at them in public. They stated that typically strangers will taunt them with “the f word” and different homophobic slurs. Broverman additionally recalled an episode the place a driver rolled down his window and requested the pair’s kids: “Did they kidnap you?”
But Pierce and Broverman described this latest incident as more “aggressive” and “egregious” than past instances, adding that it was the first time a verbal attack came “laced with talking points from right-wing media and legislators.”
“As soon as he started saying ‘pedophiles’ and things like that, I thought he just seemed like he came preloaded with these statements,” Pierce said. “So, I thought, ‘Ugh, OK, we’re dealing with someone who’s consuming right-wing media.’”
Several minutes after the shouting erupted, Amtrak employees came to address the situation. Pierce took his children to a different car, while Broverman remained behind to discuss the situation with Amtrak personnel.
The train’s conductor demanded that the unnamed man leave the train, but he refused, Broverman said.
“He said, ‘I’m not getting off. You’re going to have to kill me before I get off the train,’” Broverman recalled. “It was very serious before and even more at that point.”
Amtrak officials then called the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office for backup. The train was at Diridon Station for roughly 40 minutes before police were able to escort the unnamed man off of the train, Broverman said.
Police for Santa Clara and officials at Amtrak did not address NBC News’ query about whether the man had been arrested.
The Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement that “deputies responded as an assisting agency” but directed NBC News to officials with Amtrak Police for more information.
Amtrak said in a statement that it “strongly condemns this reprehensible act of hate” and that it was “conducting a full investigation on this incident.” It added that it is looking into potentially banning the unidentified man from Amtrak.
It wasn’t until the couple went back to their hotel room that their son told them that the man who had harassed them had approached him beforehand in the bathroom — which was just below the parents’ seats on the double-decker train — telling him that his parents “stole” him.
“These people who are allegedly so concerned about pedophiles and rapists are following children to the restroom and talking to him out of earshot of their parents, telling them about sexual issues,” Pierce said. “It’s just frightening. It’s so hypocritical, and it makes me as a parent feel powerless.”
“Even here in our hotel room he won’t use the bathroom by himself right now,” Pierce added. “He’s so frightened of bathrooms because of what happened.”
The couple said that throughout their trip the incident has weighed on their kids, with both of them bursting into tears periodically. Their son woke up in the middle of Wednesday night and threw up, they said, adding that he’s done that in the past after previous traumas.
Pierce and Broverman said that given the recent rhetoric, they expect similar incidents will happen to them again, as well as to other same-sex parents. But they hope that in sharing their story, they can help counter the “normalization” of this language, they said.
“It can feel a little bit harmless to say something like that in passing or in a tweet, but then that message builds and builds and it snowballs and then it gets to someone like the person that we encountered the other night. They buy into it, and it’s taken to a scary new level,” Pierce said. “And the children are the ones who end up suffering.”
“I’m done letting these people pretend that they care about protecting children or not harming them, because this rhetoric is directly harming my children,” Pierce added. “So, if you want to talk about who’s endangering children, it’s anybody who’s sharing these lies.”