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Counter protest to Westboro Baptist Church presents message of acceptance
Posted By Emily Sybrant On February 9, 2012 @ 12:00 am In News,Regional News | 1 Comment
The counter-protesters, including a number of Washington University students, held signs, sang songs and chanted messages of support to protest the five-member picketing efforts of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.
Westboro Baptist Church is nationally known for its extreme picketing techniques and strong stance against homosexuality.
Though administrators at Clayton High School are not sure why the group chose to target the school, principal Louise Losos said that the school’s visible Gay-Straight Alliance might have been a contributing factor.
“We don’t know for certain because they aren’t always as forthcoming as perhaps we would like,” Losos said. “[However,] they were in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, so I think we were on their radar and on their way home.”
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church did not return phone calls or emails on Wednesday.The high school’s administration was made aware of the Westboro protest about a week and a half before the event, after the group’s lawyers sent a letter notifying the Clayton Police Department, according to Losos.
The school, working with the Clayton Police Department, set up space both for the Westboro Baptist Church members’ to protest and for the community members to counter-protest.
“We worked with our student leaders to create a positive counter-demonstration…celebrating who we are as a school and celebrating our students,” Losos said.
Washington University students learned about the counter-protest through Facebook as well as through department and club emails.
University students cited a desire to support the students of Clayton High School as reason for getting involved in the direct action.
“It shows unity and just support for the Gay-Straight Alliance,” freshman Rachel Hoffman said. “[I heard about it from] a girl from Clayton High School. It inspired me to come, how much passion she had for the event.”
Other students cited their dislike for the Westboro Baptist Church as reason for getting involved.
“[The Westboro cause] is definitely something that I’m very, very opposed to. I wanted to come out for the students of this community because I want to show them that majority of Americans don’t hold this opinion,” freshman Ryan Hoffman said.
“I wanted to get involved in a protest because I’ve never done it, and this seemed like a great cause to show support for because [Westboro Baptist Church is] also just so delusional,” senior Brad Valtman said.
Students also said that the potential effects of the negative messages pushed them to get involved in a positive counter-protest.
“These are kids just trying to go to school. To say such hateful and hurtful things to a group of youth…that’s one of my biggest problems with it,” junior Micajah Dudley said.
“It seems like it’s spurned by hate on their side. It felt like it was important that we just come to just support…younger people who go to school here who might be directly affected. To have people in the community come to show support can prevent a lot of damage,” junior Will Rogers said.
Losos said that the counter-protest gave a positive spin to the Westboro protest.
“I think the students felt very good about what they had created and the response they got. We’re not going to let [the protest] disrupt our day,” Losos said. “[There was an] outpouring of love from all angles. I think the kids felt really good about Monday morning.”
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