On Saturday evening NDN Collective led an Action in Napa, California as part of calling attention to the dangerous rhetoric of The Napa Institute – an organization co-founded by Timothy Busch, owner of the Meritage Resort and Spa where the Napa Institute annual conference is held.
The Napa Institute claims its summer conference is designed for the Catholic community to “learn about the sanctity of work, building a Catholic culture, and reason and faith” and attempts to distance itself from politics, though it has an overtly political agenda often with high profile Republican politicians and political strategists in attendance. In fact, attendees paid $2,700 to hear former U.S. Attorney General William Barr give a keynote address, and individuals like Leonard Leo, who advised former President Donald Trump on Supreme Court nominations, is a donor to the Institute.
Aside from far-right individuals in politics, The Napa Institute platforms organizations who have been deemed hate groups and utilize this conference as a key organizing and strategy-building moment for those who are anti-Black, anti-LBGTQIA2+, pro-life, opponents of critical race theory, and are actively fighting to protect the heterosexual nuclear family ideology.
Members of NDN Collective and other local residents from across the Bay Area disrupted William Barr’s keynote address to call attention to this event, which had previously flown under the radar. “Often, it can seem like big decisions happen in faraway places – when in fact the organizing that sets these violent and life-altering decisions in motion could be happening in our own backyards,” said NDN Collective Climate Justice Organizer, Kailea Frederick.
Countless Indigenous communities have felt the serious ramifications of the Catholic church and the religious warfare they have deployed globally over the last 500 years. With the Pope offering an apology just last week to First Nations peoples in so-called Canada for the kidnapping and genocide of thousands of their children, NDN Collective’s team knows all too well how dangerous religious radicalization can be, especially when human rights are a focal point.
As reported by the National Catholic Reporter, fifteen families have pledged donations to the Napa Institute totaling $500,000 over the next five years to support program expansion. As part of this expansion, a lecture series in 2021 was held at the University of Notre Dame. One of the initial speakers included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who recently stepped down from teaching at George Washington University amid nationwide backlash over his concurrence in the case overturning Roe v. Wade, as well as his wife Ginni Thomas’s involvement in the January 6th insurrection.
The peaceful disruption on Saturday evening consisted of a caravan of vehicles parked on a public street outside of the venue space where William Barr was speaking. A banner was draped over the side of a truck that read, “Fascists Not Welcome Here! This Church = Colonial Control”, while protesters utilized a PA system to issue an eviction notice to conference attendees. Local news coverage of the conference highlighted several voices from the region who made it clear that the viewpoints bolstered by The Napa Institute are not representative of Napa residents or other Bay Area communities. Coverage from conference attendees that evening showed that the all-women-led protesters were successful in disrupting the event. In an attempt to drown out the eviction notice from the PA system, attendees broke into prayer, which they believed was the reason why the group of protesters eventually left.
Alternative footage would indicate that the protesters were accosted by conference attendees, met with chants of “baby killers” and “maskers”, and dealt with an increasing escalation of violence from a group of men who encircled them. One man yelled repeatedly in the women’s faces, while others attempted to snatch their signs, grab their bodies, and even go as far as opening the passenger side of their truck door, despite being on public property. At one point, another man leaned into the bed of their vehicle and aggressively snatched out the auxiliary cord connected to the PA system, cutting one of the women’s hands that was holding it. In fear that their safety was at risk and to avoid further violence, the group of protesters made the decision to leave.
“In the end, our group was able to maintain safety for all individuals, which is our main priority when participating in nonviolent direct action. That being said, all of our human rights are currently under direct attack from individuals who support organizations like The Napa Institute. Below, we have compiled a list of articles that detail key supporters and donors to the Napa Institute that we recommend becoming familiar with. We consider Saturday evening a first step in continuing to track the threads that are tied to the organizing coming through the Napa Institute,” said NDN Collective Climate Justice Organizer, Kailea Frederick.