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About us

Silent Witness Peacekeepers Alliance (SWPA) is an organization of gay and straight allies dedicated to providing a non-confrontational buffer between the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community and those who would protest LGBT events. We are peacekeepers, not counter-protesters, protecting everyone's right of free speech. We provide visual protection from "street preachers" and protesters at events such as Pridefests, the showing of films such as Jim in Bold and For the Bible Tells Me So, or staging of plays such as The Laramie Project, using our bodies and rainbow umbrellas as shields. In times of need, we intervene to prevent confrontations between protesters and event participants, often acting as escorts for those who would like to attend such events. Where there are those who publicly promote hate, we will be there to help provide a loving, supportive front opposing them. We provide a visual representation of support for those in our society who may feel marginalized, while simultaneously protecting everyone's rights of free speech and religion.

Silent Witnesses receive significant training in non-confrontation techniques specially designed for the type of work they do. Only those who have received this training may participate in an event as a Silent Witness. Silent Witnesses are easily recognized by their special safety vests and rainbow umbrellas.



Silent Witnesses have been part of GLBT events in Pennsylvania since 2006. Our purpose is to act as a "human spiritual firewall" between GLBT folks and those individuals who believe GLBT's are an abomination on the face of the earth. This concerned and dedicated group of activists consists of over 1000 individuals who have been specially trained to deal with hate-mongers. Because street preachers and other vicious protestors have a long history of picketing, antagonizing and subsequently suing various individuals and organizations, Silent Witnesses stand ready to prevent confrontations while welcoming and supporting GLBT participants to the event they are attending.

It is often a struggle to refrain from arguing with street preachers and other protestors, but based on past experience, confronting them is clearly useless. Their attempts to engage participants in a "dialogue" are thinly disguised attempts to trap unsuspecting subjects into listening to their diatribe. They are impervious to logic. And at their worst, they are trying to earn a living by provoking an attack and filing lawsuits. It is precisely this kind of result that SWPA is determined to prevent.

While individual members of SWPA may hold deep religious beliefs, and are free to express them during events, SWPA supports diversity in all its forms, including religion. For some, it is their belief in the all-abiding love of their God that inspires them to do this work. For others it is their belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people that drives their participation. Whatever the motivation, the result is the same: we will continue to support the rights of those who suffer expressions of hate.

For more information about Silent Witness PA and training opportunities, please follow the Training link on the menu.



Who We Are

Silent Witness PA is headed by Alanna Berger and Blaise Liffick. This husband and wife team has led the organization since the summer of 2005, when they gathered more than 130 volunteers as Silent Witnesses for the Harrisburg (PA) PrideFest. They have since trained more than 1000 Silent Witnesses around the central PA region - including Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Reading, Allentown, Kutztown, Millersville, and Shippensburg - and as far away as Charlotte, NC and Johnson County, KS.

 

Executive Director Alanna Berger is a former systems analyst who quit her high-paying (and high-stress!) job in the fall of 2007 to devote herself to this work. She has led her church's Rainbow EqUUality Advocates lay-led ministry for several years, working on behalf of the LGBTQIA community. She is a former Board member of the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN), which is currently keeping track of state legislation impacting the LGBTQIA community and lobbying on their behalf. She was Vice President of the Harrisburg PrideFest Board in 2008-2009. She is currently an adjunct professor teaching a course on Gender and Sexuality Minority Issues at Lebanon Valley College.

Dr. Blaise Liffick (Director of Operations) is a computer scientist at Millersville University, where he has been on the faculty for over 30 years. His office is a designated "Safe Zone" for LGBTQIA students, and he is the faculty advisor for MU's gay-straight alliance. He has been involved with the LGBTQIA community with his wife for several years, and has been on the advisory committee for the Lancaster chapter of Common Roads (a LGBTQIA youth program headquartered in Harrisburg). He also assisted with the planning of the Pride celebration in Lancaster, PA in 2008. He has served on the Executive Committee of the PASSHE LGBTQIA Consortium, an organization of the 14 universities of the PA State System of Higher Education offering support, education, and advocacy related to issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. He is also the chairperson of the Millersville University President's Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity and leads the university's Safe Zone program.