Gay Atlanta artist hopes ‘hate shields’ quiet Pride protesters

Fulton County and the City of Atlanta funded the efforts of a local artist who wants to use mobile soundproof walls to muffle anti-LGBTQ protestors during Atlanta Pride weekend.

“The Hate Shield” project (see mockup below) is the creation of gay Atlanta artist Matthew Terrell. He noticed that anti-LGBTQ street preachers at Pride were getting louder and more aggressive in recent years. While the Pansy Patrol helps keep the protesters out of sight, the anti-LGBTQ taunts are still heard.

“The scene they’re creating is very sort of outrageous and disturbing in some ways,” he told Project Q Atlanta. 

Terrell percolated on the idea for a couple of years before applying for grants for the project. The Fulton County Arts & Culture office and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Office of Cultural Affairs gave him $6,000 in grants to create the shields.

“To get the grant, I had to give them a complete picture of the problem, so this past year I made an effort to go and fully record video footage of the protesters and record decibel levels within five feet and within 100 feet to sort of make a map of how far the broadcast sound goes,” Terrell said. “Having that information really helped my funders understand the need for the project.”

The protesters’ taunts reach 120 decibels, which Terrell said is equivalent to a rock concert.

“They stand at the 14th Street Gate and you can hear them almost to the Greystone building, which is like a football field away,” he said.

The shields had to be lightweight since they would be carried for long periods of time, so Terrell used four-foot by eight-foot insulation foam panels, which reduced the decibel level by 15 percent. He added automotive soundproofing sheets to increase the decibel reduction to 25 percent. 

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a really major reduction,” Terrell said. “It also greatly reduces the distance of the projection.”

He also installed a mirrored back on the shields “to rob [protesters] of the satisfaction of seeing passersby get upset,” he said. 

Terrell and his fabricator created three shields, which can each be lifted in the air by a two-person team and maneuvered to block the protesters’ megaphones at any angle. But he still needs volunteers to hold the shields. Email [email protected] for more information.

Each shield weighs about 12 pounds and has support harnesses to help hold it for long periods of time. People holding the shields will also be equipped with soundproof earmuffs. 

Terrell and the volunteers will be stationed with the shields in front of the protesters at the 14th Street Gate at Piedmont Park on Saturday to put the project into action. 

“We are ready to move and follow the anti-LGBT protestors as necessary,” he added.

Terrell created an HIV clock art sculpture in 2017 to track the number of HIV diagnoses in five metro Atlanta counties. It was installed on the grounds of the Center for Civil & Human Rights in downtown Atlanta.