When the Siouxland Pride Alliance heard that the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church was planning to protest the appointment of a gay man to a Sioux City commission, the group decided to hold a demonstration of its own: a "peace rally" in a nearby park.
Members of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church came to the Iowa city on Monday to picket the city council's appointment of Scott Raasch, a gay man, to the city's Human Rights Commission.
While some members of the community held a counterprotest across the street from the Westboro picketers, the Siouxland Pride Alliance decided to ignore the anti-gay protesters all together and hold an event on their own in Sioux City's Cook Park.
Karen Mackey, who sits on the city's human rights commission and is a founding member of the pride alliance, said approximately 300 people gathered at the peace party.
"I did not give them the benefit of [a counterprotest]," she told the Sioux City Journal. "I was at the park the entire day. I understand that many people chose to counterprotest them, but I did not want to give them any of my energy, so I didn’t."
"Don't engage, don't interact with these people," peace rally attendee Gary Lewis told KCAU-TV. "Don't give them the satisfaction of your anger or your response."
Another attendee, Frank LaMere, told KCAU that the goal of the peace party was to bring the community together.
"The folks downtown can pull people apart," he said. "They can't bring them together, and that's what we are trying to do today."