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Westboro Church meets its match in counter-protesters

By Melissa Bell
Westboro Church
In Lamar, Mo., the Patriot Guard and others use flags to block Westboro Baptist Church protesters at Army Pfc. Dylan T. Reid's funeral Oct. 30. (Emily Younker/AP)

For years, bright, rainbow-colored signs have greeted family members on their way to one of the worst events in their lives: a loved one's funeral. Rather than giving them comfort and aid, the signs celebrate the death and curse the country that the dead men and women fought for.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Kansas, have attended hundreds of military funerals toting signs that read, "God Hates the USA" or "Thank God for 9/11." They call the deaths punishment for Americans' immorality. Their actions have created outrage and anger throughout the country, and they have been taken to the Supreme Court in a case that pits free speech against the privacy owed a grieving family burying a son or daughter.

While the case isn't likely to be decided until next summer, the church, consisting almost entirely of the family members of its founder, the Rev. Fred W. Phelps, continues picketing funerals.

But rather than waiting for a court decision, counter-protesters are fighting Westboro with the church's own weapon: protests, staged to block the Westboro signs. Bikers' groups have patrolled funerals to hide the sight of the Westboro Church members. For a recent funeral in Lamar, Mo., hundreds of people lined the street waving American flags in front of the Westboro protesters.

And in a different town on Saturday, the Westboro members never even made it to the protest. Nearly a quarter of the residents of Weston, Mo., turned out with huge American flags and patriotic music. When church members saw the crowd, they left the funeral:

Update: Reader Luv2bikva points out that one of the first and most memorable counter-protests has to be the "Angels of Peace," who blocked Phelps' church with giant angel wings at Matthew Shepard's funeral.

(Thanks Garance!)

By Melissa Bell  | November 8, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Phelps and his clan--I won't dignify them by calling them a church--are bullies. As bullies always do, they prey on the vulnerable--in this case families on the worst day of their lives. And like all bullies, they skulk away when faced with opposition. Good riddance.

Posted by: rhc52 | November 8, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm part Scots. I wouldn't dignify them by calling them a clan.

A "klan," perhaps?

Posted by: carlaclaws | November 8, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I am confident Fred Phelps will share a cell with Satan for all eternity.

Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by: waxtraxs | November 8, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Hooah! Congrats to the fine townspeople of Weston, MO for standing up to the bullies. May SCOTUS find a way to ding them good (see Oliver Wendell Holmes' decision regarding free speech).

Posted by: sixofone | November 8, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for standing up to the Westboro bullies. Disrupting funnerals is not free speech, it is a dispectable behavior. It is a violation of the families' rights to perform a religous service on behalf of their follown loved one.

Posted by: DrS1 | November 8, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

i think the one good thing that the WBC brings to the world is the refreshing thought that both the left and the right can agree that they're scum.

Posted by: joew22 | November 8, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Better yet, I think these turds will share a cell with Liberace for all eternity.

Posted by: thelonghaul | November 8, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

This is how America should solve it's problems. With good ole "Yankee ingenuity" and not lawsuits. The Westboro Church is so incredibly wrong to harass people at funerals but I love the fact that Americans found a workaround without resorting to violence. Thank you to the Patriot Riders for starting this trend. You give peace and dignity to families who more than have earned their right to privacy. America salutes you for your ingenuity.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | November 8, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

My son served in Afghanistan for 27 months. If he had been killed and these clowns disrupted his funeral I would have certainly made sure that they had no church when they returned.

Posted by: clarkwdayphoto | November 8, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Tactics used by such as the Patriot Riders were actually born in the GLBT community who used counter-demonstrators dressed with angel wings to block Phelps's demonstrations at funerals of AIDS victims (see "The Laramie Project"). Good old Yankee Ingenuity at its best.

Posted by: luv2bikva | November 9, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Now, quit giving WBC any press time. They are as fringe a group of whackos as this world has ever seen, and they do not deserve the resources required to report on them.

Posted by: luv2bikva | November 9, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

The knuckleheads from WBC are scheduled to picket the Veteran's Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery this Thursday from 9-11 am.
Let's give them the same response as the good folks in Missouri.

Posted by: jts53 | November 9, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if this Westboro Church could be prosecuted as a Hate Group??? That way their actions could be cited as hate crimes.

They didn’t get Al Capone for racketeeting and murder – they got him for income tax evasion.

There has to be a way to stop these people. As was said before – they’re not really a church but members of a twisted, hateful family, with a twisted, hateful, Hitler wannabe as a leader.

KUDOS to the Patriot Guard and decent citizens for figuring out a way to beat them at their own game! If they ever come to the Baltimore area - I'll buy the biggest flag I can find and do the same!

Posted by: dddundalk | November 9, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

One question - how do we find out where they are going (the Phelps Klan) so we can show up and counter protest?

Posted by: dddundalk | November 9, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Here is there schedule:

Posted by: jonlorusso | November 9, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: jonlorusso | November 9, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I just wanted to correct an error regarding this blog, the Patriot Guard Riders are NOT a counter-protest organization.

The Patriot Guard Riders attend the funerals at the request of the family of the fallen. We are there to show "Honor" and "Respect" to the Fallen Service Member and their family.

We will shield the family from ANY uninvited guests that would be disrespectful. Please look at our website for our Mission Statement that speaks to what we do!

Posted by: TazPGR | November 9, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The only thing that will shut these people up is if they are ignored. They never are, and they get press coverage wherever they go. I don't claim that this a workable solution.

Posted by: hallosev2 | November 15, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

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