Lancaster, Massachusetts – Art Chauncey and his son Donovan stood in a line of people at Bolton Fairgrounds, waiting for Friday morning shuttle bus rides to the International Golf Club.
It is the latest tournament stop in the new professional series LIV Golf that has received much attention.
Not only for its big stars like Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith – the number two golfer in the world – but also because the series is financially backed by the government of Saudi Arabia with a long list of human rights abuses.
“No, I didn’t really notice them,” said Upton’s Shaughnessy, when asked about the group of protesters to his right, in an area near the fairgrounds, the only official parking area for visitors to The International for its Labor Day weekend event.
“I’m really here for golf,” Shaunessy said.
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This feeling was echoed by the others who stood in line. Some said it was hypocritical to exclude this tournament, when other sports leagues receive money from countries with human rights abuses.
“Go and ask the PGA what they support. It’s probably China,” said Susan Barnes, who came from Elba, Alabama for the tournament.
“Tell the protesters that they don’t know what they are talking about,” she added.
lone protest group
The Massachusetts Peace Movement was the only group of protesters at the fairgrounds on Friday morning, and the only organizers of the area tournament at a private golf club just over four miles away allowed protesters to be present.
The group numbered less than ten, holding placards that read “Saudi money is blood money” and “Saudi Arabia is killing journalists and children in Yemen.”
“The main reason we are here is because Saudi Arabia is funding this golf tournament,” said Paul Shannon, a member of the group’s executive committee. “It is one of the most repressive governments on earth.”
Saudi Arabia has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including politically motivated killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Members of the royal family and the Saudi government have been accused of involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and columnist for the Washington Post.
The Shannon Group also reported a 34-year prison sentence for Umm for her Twitter support for women’s rights, and her support for the war in Yemen that has killed more than 150,000 people.
“Saudi Arabia’s funding of this golf tournament is outrageous for us,” Shannon said.
The International is the fourth stop in the LIV Golf Series that rivals the PGA Tour, and the majority of LIV’s funding is said to come from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Kevin Moulton of Stirling stood outside the fence separating it from visitors as they queued to board the shuttle bus.
As a member of the Massachusetts Peace Movement, Moulton quietly held protest materials in his right hand as visitors walked past. Three people only took one.
Some in line seemed annoyed that Moulton was standing there. “We get gas from Saudi Arabia, and[former president Bill]Clinton gave them money in the 1990s,” said one of the men.
Another man said, “The PGA takes a lot of Saudi money too.”
“I am here to educate people and let them know where the money is coming from,” Moulton said, adding that the US Senate team made up of Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, as well as US Representative Jim McGovern of Worcester, should have joined the protesters.
“I wish there were more protesters here, but we’re doing our best,” Shannon said.
message sink in?
When asked if their message was reaching those who seemed most interested in getting the championship, protester Paul Garber of Acton said “the average person would say blood money from Saudi Arabia is a bunch of bullshit”.
As for LIV Golf, and whether you hear their message from the course several miles from the designated protest area at the fairgrounds, Garber believes LIV is getting so much money from Saudi Arabia that they “don’t care”.
“It must be embarrassing for America in general because (the Saudi-backed golf tournament) is going on,” Garber said.
Back in line, visitors patiently waited their turn to hop on a shuttle bus, but when the topic of Saudi Arabia was brought up, Bob Jones of Mindon didn’t hold back.
Other countries that have human rights abuses own property in this country. It is a free country, and people can do whatever they want.
Ellie Leonard described “two sides to every story” of her feelings about LIV Golf and its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Her husband, Chris, focused on the sunny mornings and the fun they paid for watching her at The International.
We are not here for politics. We’re here for good times, and we want to see some great golf.”
Contact Henry Schwan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @henrytelegram