My Experience with the Westboro Baptist Church Hate Group

I arrived to my office this morning around 9:30am only to be greeted by loads of policemen, security guards, barricades, and people from the school next door mulling around waiting. As I told you in this post, the Westboro Baptist Church (a fringe, extremist hate group and cult in no way affiliated with the Christian denomination also known as ‘Baptist’) was scheduled to make a 10am appearance at the Jewish Day School my church shares a parking lot with.

I’d come prepared. Armed with my digital camera, I made my way across the lot and was greeted with a smile by one of the security guards working for the school – a very nice man. I told him how sorry I was they were having to deal with this today, and that’s when I heard the news: the Westboro group probably wasn’t going to make it to our location. They’d run into a problem.

Apparently, someone had slashed the tires on their rental car at the earlier stop they’d made. They couldn’t leave until Enterprise (the rental car company that promises “We’ll get you there … even if you’re a hate group!”) brought them another vehicle. That delay had pushed Westboro’s schedule back meaning the Brandeis Hillel Day School wasn’t going to have to deal with them. Trust me – the nice folks at Brandeis didn’t mind and I was relieved for them, but I still wanted to get some footage of the circus.

The next stop on Westboro’s schedule was downtown at 225 Bush Street – the headquarters of Jewish News Weekly of Northern California – so I, along with my friends Genny and Nathaniel who’d also come to watch the show, hopped in my car and made the trek downtown to Bush Street to observe the protest.

We arrived and after waiting for a few minutes the protestors showed up. Here’s part of what we witnessed:

That’s a video from my little digicam. Genny also shot some footage with a professional quality camera she was operating. Regular readers know we have a little film project we’re working on in our college group – if the footage turns out ok, we’ll probably use it for that.

We actually interviewed one of the young ladies from Westboro using Genny’s camera. The girl was quite polite to us since we were being polite to her, but would fire back with vitrol to the others on the sidewalk if mocked. I’m hoping the audio of our interview with her turns out ok as her comments gave me quite a bit of insight into their theology, but I’m a little worried it may have been too loud around us. We haven’t been able to check yet … we’ll see.

Here are a few pictures I snapped:

 

This guy arrived early around the same time we did. He’s planning to follow the Westboro group to each location they go to today. Before they arrived, I asked him to pose for a picture with my favorite sign and he obliged.

And then they showed up. There were only a total of five protestors from the WBC along for the ride on this trip. An older lady, a middle-aged couple, and a couple of girls in their twenties.

This is the youngest Westboro protestor we saw today. She looks like she’s barely in her twenties.

I felt sorry for the police officers having to deal with this all day. I spoke briefly with one of them. He informed me that somewhere in the area a member of the WBC was secretly filming the entire protest just in case someone assaulted one of the hate group members. He told me if a WBC member were assaulted, the police would be forced to take action immediately so that the group could press charges and file a lawsuit against the attacker. If the police were slow to act, the entire ordeal would be caught on tape and the videotape used as evidence to sue, not only the attacker, but also the city. The WBC is well-known for filing frivolous lawsuits.

Police had to move in with metal barricades as the exchange between the protestors and the citizens on the sidewalk became heated.

One member of the WBC wore an Israeli flag covered in blood around their feet making sure to step on it regularly.

Notice one of her signs says “God Sent the Quake” – if you’re wondering what this group’s take on the Hatian earthquake is, click here. Pat Robertson would be proud.

This man was by far the loudest of the bunch.

To say the least, today has been a very interesting day.

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8 thoughts on “My Experience with the Westboro Baptist Church Hate Group

  1. mattdabbs says:

    That is really…really sad. That guy with the signs is just great. I am so glad people like that are out there. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  2. Edsel Dunstable says:

    Oh wow.
    I’m on the internet.

  3. Cary says:

    Giving these people attention and reactions is exactly what they want. I wish that it was understood that completely ignoring the Phelps clan would shut them down quickly.

    But I know this won’t happen. And it’s why they will keep successfully doing what they are doing and getting exactly what they want.

  4. WesWoodell says:

    lol … hiya Ed 🙂

  5. K. Rex Butts says:

    So what does “Dog Hates Cats” mean?

    Any ways…have you been able to get a read on whether others (especially the ones arguing with the WBC’s) associate the WBC with the rest of Christianity?

    So sad…

    Rex

  6. Daniel says:

    I can’t stand the WBC’s brand of hate, and lies. I watched the video and when they said that God sent the Earth quake to punish the nation of Haiti, i felt sick. Very sick.

    With that said, i am confused by some people’s reactions to them. What gets me worried is their logic (what little i could find in their hate) sounds really familiar to what i have heard many people say here in Searcy and at Harding. Mainly dealing with Gays and lesbians. I have never heard a professor of Harding say stuff like this, but i have heard many students and residents of Searcy talk like this. These same people have deep problems with the WBC. Maybe there are some things that the some people don’t really have a problem with his logic but how he says it, and where he decides to say it, (like fallen soliders funerals)

    I have a problem with both what he says and how he says it.

  7. WesWoodell says:

    Matt – thanks for the comment. Edsel Dunstable did provide much needed comic relief.

    Cary – you’re right, but they’re too outrageous to not get attention.

    Rex – everyone I spoke with seemed to understand this was an extremist group and didn’t at all associate them with mainstream Christian thought or belief. That was a relief.

    Daniel – thanks for comment and the thoughts.

  8. Edsel Dunstable says:

    Rex – “Dog Hates Cats” doesn’t mean anything. It, along with my other signs, was only an attempt to get people to laugh. They were supposed to be funny and absurd. While I cannot say that they were more absurd than the WBC’s signs, I’d like to think they were funnier.

    Anyone who follows the WBC protests will quickly come to realize that attempting to reason with them is a waste of breath at best.

    Q: So, what is an individual who finds the content of their speech deeply offensive to do?
    A: Get people to laugh, either at silly signs or at them, both work.

    The WBC people want to be taken seriously. The protest trips to various places are all attempts to get their message to be discussed by the general public. When people end up laughing at these events, it diminishes the effect of their protests. For people who wander by it is no longer just “oh hey, that’s the WBC people, they hate gays/Jews/[insert people involved in recent event here],” it is “oh hey, that’s the WBC people. I remember a funny sign I saw. It made me laugh. I’ll have to remember to tell my friends about it (or maybe send the picture I took of that sign to my friends).”

    Or, at least, that’s what I hope happens.

    I don’t want the WBC people to be taken seriously. I would like their extremist beliefs to be ridiculed and dismissed. Talking to them, attempting to reason with them, and trying to debate them hasn’t worked.

    So why not try laughter?

    As an side note: As much as I find their views abhorrent, their right to say it MUST be protected. The speech that we disagree with the most is the easiest to censor.

    Also, for a laugh: You may remember that the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, Megan Phelps-Roper, decided to remake Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”: http://tinyurl.com/ydbklfw
    Well, some friends I met up with after the event in front of the Jewish News Weekly got them to sing it (their singing is awful). And then we had a little fun with them.

    The fun begins shortly after the 4 minute mark.

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