With the passing of Wesboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, reactions are pouring in and range from the vicious to the celebratory to the forgiving. For many, Phelps' passing conjures the pain inflicted by the WBC over the years as it put forth a doctrine of homophobia and condemnation.
Not missing the chance to fight hatred with love, many inspiring advocates of equality have come out over the years to counter-protest the WBC. These peaceful demonstrations show the power of love, compassion and gentle humor to combat the WBC's message of intolerance.
At a 2010 WBC counter protest
in Portland, Oregon, one man showed up dressed as God, himself. "No I don't," his simple sign responded to the WBC's notorious "God hates ___" signs.
Sometimes the best way to combat hatred and intolerance is through love
. The adorable "couple kiss" counter protest has been an popular and powerful way many have confronted the WBC's intolerance.
One of the most powerful WBC counter protests was the 1999 Angel Action wall of love
outside the courthouse where Matthew Shepard's accused killers were on trial. The event has been recreated over the years in the acclaimed play, The Laramie Project.
In July of 2012, hundreds of Texas A&M students
gathered to create a human wall around the funeral service for a soldier, which the WBC had come to protest. As one organizer wrote on Facebook, "In response to their signs of hate, we will wear maroon. In response to their mob anger, we will form a line, arm in arm. This is a silent vigil. A manifestation of our solidarity."
Nine-year-old Josef Miles
and his mother, Patty Akrouche, were walking around the Washburn University campus in Topeka, Kan., in May 2012 when they saw a group of Westboro Baptist Church protesters armed with signs. Miles asked if he could make his own sign and wrote the humble, powerful words, "God hates no one."
In 2008 the WBC staged a protest against the funerals of three soldiers from the HM-15 Blackhawks. Counter-protesters
came out in droves to deliver a different message, including this amazing woman.
WBC picketed a Foo Fighters
concert in 2011, inspiring the band to stage their own protest across from the Westboro picketers. Dressed in overalls and wigs, the band played "Keep it Clean (Hot Buns)," which, as it turns out, is a song about the lonesome life of a gay long-haul trucker.
This photo, posted by Twitter user @yadnulsirhc
, shows just how sassy, stylish and patriotic a WBC counter protest can be.
This human wall of love and patriotism came about at the same WBC counter protest in support of the Blackhawk soldiers
who lost their lives. Motorcycles, American flags and endless love sounds like a much better demonstration than whatever WBC put together.
Colin Lovett for LGBTQ Nation
In February of 2014, the WBC landed in Missouri to protest the coming out of football player Michael Sam
. An estimated 2,000 students and supporters braved the snow to form a “Stand with Sam” human wall, blocking the WBC protesters' view from campus.