One silver lining in the ongoing saga of the vile Westboro Baptist Church funeral protests is that wherever they go Americans unite against them. The Arizona State Legislature has passed a law preventing protesters to come within 300 feet of funerals. And Arizonans are organizing a counter-protest to keep the family and other mourners of the nine-year-old girl murdered this past Saturday, Christina Green, shielded from the hateful signs and chants of the Westboro clan.
Within hours of the church’s announcements, Facebook groups sprang up to plan actions surrounding the funerals that would keep the church members separate from the mourners.
Tucson just isn’t that kind of town, says Christin Gilmer, 26, referring to the actions of the church.
“For something like this to happen in Tucson was a really big shock to us all,” she said. “Our nightmare happened when we saw Westboro Baptist Church was going to picket the funerals.”
Gilmer and others are planning an “angel action” — with 8-by-10-foot “angel wings” worn by participants to shield mourners from picketers. Angel actions were created by Coloradan Romaine Patterson, who was shocked to find the Topeka church and its multicolored signs outside the 1999 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten and left on a fence to die in Laramie, Wyoming.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” said Glen Littell, who’s bringing a pack of bikers from the Phoenix Motorcycle Rider Group to Tucson on Thursday. “They’re a stench from a slaughterhouse. We’re just going to block the stench so the family can catch their breath.” […]
Littell has notified the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and has reached out to several other biker groups notifying them of their planned presence at Green’s funeral. He crossed his fingers that the Hells Angels would join them.
“Nothing says stand back and be silent like a Hells Angels presence,” he said.
Littell added that if the church moves on to picket other funerals, his riders will follow.
“We’re getting word there’s gonna be a pretty large presence of bikers,” he said. “Word’s spreading. And spreading quickly.”
With so much awful, rancorous division in this country it’s good to see people coming together in defiance of hatred. There is something beautiful to me in this battalion of angels and bikers come to shield the grieving. A bright streak of humanity in an otherwise dark hour.
Thanks to commenter JPL for this update:
KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) – A controversial Kansas church has decided not protest at the funeral of a 9-year-old girl killed in Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.
Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., says church members will skip Thursday’s funeral of Christina Taylor Green.
Phelps-Roper was interviewed Tuesday by a station in Toronto, Canada, and is scheduled to be on a morning talk show Saturday. She says Westboro Baptist Church decided not to picket in exchange for the airtime.
Phelps-Roper says the group will picket the funeral Friday for U.S. District Judge John Roll and at the intersection where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot.
The Arizona Legislature unanimously passed a measure Tuesday banning protests at or near funeral sites.
The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported the church’s decision to skip the girl’s funeral.