The anti- and pro-Marilyn Manson camps squared off in Denver Wednesday, the night before his controversial performance at Ozzfest's Mile High City stop.
Manson originally planned to skip the show he hasn't played Denver since the 1999 massacre at nearby Littleton, Colorado's Columbine High School (gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were falsely reported to be fans of the band). When Manson backtracked and said he would indeed play Denver, a local youth pastor asked the band to cancel the show, calling the singer's message one of "hate."
Jason Janz, the pastor who heads anti-Manson group Citizens for Peace and Respect, challenged Manson to a debate during his group's rally on the Colorado capitol steps. Manson said previously he would debate Janz, but that his schedule didn't permit it during the Denver Ozzfest stop, according to his label publicist.
"Our theme was one of hope, that there are alternatives to hate," Janz said Thursday (June 21) before going to Mile High Stadium to hand out literature to Ozzfest attendees. He estimated the crowd at 400. Police did not make official crowd number estimates, according to Denver police detective Mary Thomason, and reported no incidents at the rallies.
"I have studied the past 60 years of popular teen culture and have come to the conclusion that we are losing our kids," Janz said, according to a written copy of his speech. "If Marilyn Manson can walk into our town, promote hate, violence, suicide, death, drug use and Columbine-like behavior, I can say, 'Not without a fight.'
"We don't think Manson caused Columbine, but he encourages and legitimizes Columbine-like behavior," Janz said Thursday. "We don't support censorship, but we're in favor of citizenship, encouraging concert promoters to be responsible in what they present to the community."
Janz's efforts which drew the support of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. spawned the creation of an opposition group, Citizens for the Protection of the Right to Free Speech, which also held a rally at the capitol Wednesday.
"We just wanted to show that Jason Janz does not speak for our entire community," event organizer Carrieanne Andrews said. Andrews, a mother of three, said she and other organizers resented "being told how to be good parents." The Andrews-organized rally was held prior to the start of Janz's gathering.
Andrews estimated the crowd at the Citizens for the Protection of the Right to Free Speech rally at 150, a mix of "goth kids, headbangers and older fans." Their rally featured speeches by organization members and other freedom-of-speech advocates. The organizers also read letters from anti-censorship activists Dave Marsh of Rock & Rap Confidential and members of Rock Out Censorship.
"Instead of telling him to shut up, the censors ought to listen to Manson," read Marsh's letter. "Listen once and try to imagine the lives of the people who find comfort and enjoyment in Manson's music. Then maybe they would behave less like fearful, superstitious primitives and begin helping undo some of the damage people like themselves have caused."