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Westboro Protests at University of Central Florida

by David Thomas Moran
Wednesday Jul 17, 2013

More than one hundred people showed up in front of the UCF Arena July 15 to counter-protest a visit from the Topeka-based hate group, Westboro Baptist Church.

The controversial anti-gay group made a brief stop at UCF after picketing the NAACP national convention earlier in the morning near Sea World.

At around 9:30am, six Westboro picketers arrived in front of the arena sporting their notorious anti-gay signage.

The small group, which included three children, was quickly surrounded by a crowd of mostly UCF students. The counter-protesters came decked out with signs, rainbows and their own posters challenging Westboro's message of hate.

Poster slogans included "God Hates Fangs," "A Life of Hate Creates Its Own Hell" and "Honk for Westboro to Go Home." Some were humorous, others more serious.

Westboro had announced earlier this month through a press release that they planned to picket at UCF from 9:15-9:45am at one of the campus' free speech zones. Students used social media to organize the counter-protest.

The Westboro picketers arrived about fifteen minutes late, which left some initially thinking the group might not show up. Campus police and administrators were on hand to maintain the peace.

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  • WayGay, 2013-07-18 08:45:24

    Yes indeed. Signs that say "Welcome to Hell, Fred" and "Enjoy Damnation" and "God Hates Phelps"

  • Wayne M., 2013-07-19 21:54:12

    It would be nice just to ignore the Westboro Baptists and Fred Phelps, but ignoring bullies does not make them go away. The best we can and must do is make sure every picket action they take is uncomfortable for them and make it clear they are not welcome.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-07-19 23:31:38

    We DON’T NEED to do anything. They are a tiny group of lunatics with no power or influence whatsoever. Protesting against them only brings them more publicity, which is what they want. Ignoring them might not make them go away, but it will reduce their visibility. Anyway, in this country everyone has a right to believe anything he wants and to express that belief publicly. That doesn’t mean anyone has to listen. Let them talk. No one is listening.

  • Wayne M., 2013-07-20 09:52:50

    Sorry Gag’em: The fact is that there are people who do listen to them and others like them. That is why we have incidents of Gay bashing on our streets and homophobic bullying in our schools. The "We don’t need to do anything," argument is exactly the same argument that has been used many times throughout history - most notably during the rise of Hitler in Germany during the 1920s. Can we not learn from history?

  • GAG'EM, 2013-07-20 12:15:37

    The WBC are not Nazis. They are not a mass movement. They have no popular support. They don’t influence government. Even the right wing has tried to shut them down for their protests at military funerals. The only people who might listen to them are other lunatics who certainly will not be dissuaded by a bunch of queers protesting against them. Yes, we should learn from history, but with reason, not paranoia.

  • BlondieSL, 2013-07-21 06:49:26

    GAG’EM, you are mostly right, of course. However, there ARE some people who do hear/see what they do and them being haters, use what they see/hear as a justification to go out and hurt people. The crowd mentality, if you will. Ignoring people like that is not the right thing to do. On the contrary, all hate groups and individual haters have to be dealt with before their numbers grow like a cancer, which they area. Remember, there are some people "on the fence", that just need that extra little push to justify their actions. Just look at what’s going on in some regions (New York, for example). It’s like the monkey see, monkey do thing. The haters see what these idiots of WBC do and go out and act on their own. Actually, here’s a challenge for EDGE. How about researching and compiling a report that shows whether or not, after a WBC "event" (protesting something that got in the news), if there is an increase of violence towards the LGBT community? Then we’d know if this crazy group has any influence on anyone. The reality is, if their actions do cause a trickle-down effect and even 1 person gets hurt, then they do need to be actioned against. As for paranoia, paranoia saves lives. If you are walking down the street and a group of thugs is coming your way, paranoia will make you take appropriate action and remove yourself from POSSIBLE danger. To walk right through them could be suicide. Paranoia has always been a survival tool. But I know what you mean. Unreasonable paranoia is not good either. It’s reasonable to be paranoid over people who CAN do you hard, either directly or indirectly. :)

  • fleebness, 2013-07-21 07:39:30

    DerekJA has it right concerning how this kind of thing can spread, although it tends to work best from the top down. Our history has shown that when we stay quiet and to ourselves, not bothering anybody or letting anyone know what we do (because, after all, it doesn’t really impact anyone else), we were sought out and attacked. We tried that tactic for a very long time, and it doesn’t work. But, when we reveal ourselves, and call out against people who do this kind of stuff, we tend to fare better. I suppose what I’m really saying is that calling them out like this has shown to work for us, rather than against us. Although I appreciate GAG’EM’s sentiment, as it gets rather tiring to constantly point at these idiots and call them on their ass-hattery, we need to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

  • BlondieSL, 2013-07-21 07:58:27

    Agreed, Fleebness. Your statement, "we need to continue to do so for the foreseeable future" is bang on! I’m an older "boy" ;) who did some marching and protestin for our rights a very long time ago. I never got hurt, but I did hear of others who did, fighting for our rights. Here we are decades later and things HAVE changed. I dare say, "ignoring" everything at that time, would NOT have brought us to where we are today. The fight cannot stop. And not just the WBC, but those republican lunatics who are nothing more than racists and homophobes, still trying to stop our rights; take our current rights away and openly discriminate against us. Those are the ones who are listened to more; have power; have the ability to convince other like-minded cave dwellers. The moment we stop fighting for our rights, is the moment the cancer spreads. For we older ones, what we’re seeing today, really is history repeating itself. Therefore, we need to take a lesson from history and not stop the fight. OH AND PERHAPS IT’S OK TO SAY THIS IN THISE THREAD, because I thought of the WBC yesterday, in fact. My husband and I attended Gay Pride festivities in Rochester, NY. There were a bunch of times I had to wipe tears from my eyes, because I was overcome by emotion as the love being shown by people in attendance. It made me with that the WBC were there to see for themselves what LOVE is and how their HATE is destructive to them and their offspring. HUBBY AND I WOULD LOVE TO THANKS the people of Rochester for such an emotionally fulfilling day and thanks to the new friends who made us and others feel like we came home. DAMN! I’m tearing up typing this. WHAT!? Hehehehe ;)

  • fleebness, 2013-07-21 21:19:50

    My own efforts have been considerably more quiet, but I think just as necessary. I haven’t paraded. I haven’t attended those sort of festivities that you’ve described. In fact, I don’t really know that many other gay people at all, but as an introvert, that’s just as well. I quietly live my life, openly, but not obviously gay to most straight people (but a gay man can often spot me a mile away). When people learn of it, I get a variety of reactions, mostly positive, rarely negative (thankfully). But, once in a rare while, I have helped change a life to get past one’s own prejudices, and see us as living, breathing human beings. In one case, a man in his 70s who held a long-term dislike for gay men (spanning most of his life) insists on hugging me when we meet, although he’s too self-conscious to ask me some of the questions that bug him. His son told me that just being open and myself helped the guy get past his prejudices. So, between the Gay Pride parades and other people like me who just live openly, we’re changing hearts and minds, if slowly. But we can’t really relax until the day comes when we don’t really think about gender preference as gay, or straight, or even bi, but just as individual preferences. At the moment, I cannot see that day coming, hence, ’foreseeable future’.

  • GAG'EM, 2013-07-22 01:37:46

    You guys overestimate the WBC. Gaybashers are not getting their cues from them. There are plenty of other sources of hate speech: Talk radio, right wing politicians, the Catholic Church for example. I don’t know that any of us is going to do the research you suggest DerekJA, but you could see if gaybashing is much more prevalent in Topeka, the WBC’s home base. As for paranoia: it is not the same as fear. Yes, of course, survival sometimes depends on a healthy fear of a real danger. Paranoia is an unhealthy, irrational fear of an imagined danger. I still believe there’s more danger in giving these wackos attention than in ignoring them. fleebness, I absolutely agree with confronting homophobia and responding to those who target us, but we need to focus our efforts on those who have the most power to hurt us, like government officials and large institutions like the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts, not tiny insignificant groups like WBC. By the way, fleebness, I really like what you say about influencing people by quietly revealing yourself. I’ve had this experience at times and it can be very powerful. Speaking of research, studies of this say that the best predictor of people’s acceptance of gay people is whether they know one. It’s something I struggle with in dealing with my ultra-religious, but sweet and respectful, homophobic students.

  • BlondieSL, 2013-07-22 06:44:53

    1. HiFleebness and Gag’Em. First, Fleebness I totally agree and have the same experiences as well. You are right, to take down homophobia, there are many methods and we need to use them all. Before I marched, I was a total closet case! OMG! How far I’ve come. LOL I also take the same road as you these days (the marching was LONNGGGG ago). Even at work, there’s a few people who were homophobic and one, sitting beside me, that when he started, openly admitted that he was (military type). Here we are a few years later and like your situation, he’s no longer homophobic. In fact, we’ve become good buds. *** GAG’EM *** first, as you can appreciate, I’m having a war within not making a joke about your nick name here. It’s killing me! ROFL Let’s just say, my husband is from Guatemala and I’ve never taught him the meaning of the word GAG! ;) LOL In reading your post, I clicked into something. I believe that we are totally in sync, the thing is what our personal meaning for the word paranoia is. I totally understand how you are using it now. You mean, like walking down the street with ones head down, being paranoid at every turn. I now get what you mean. I use the word a bit differently. While I understand the form you are using, I use the word paranoia in more of way as say the words "aware and cautious". Like, I don’t mean walking down the street being afraid of your own shadow. I mean, walking down the street with total confidence, all the while being "aware" of surroundings and being "cautious" to what’s going on around you. So I think we are in fact on the exact same track. I’m not sure that I agree that WBC is insignificant. The KKK started off as a VERY small group. But their cancer spread to where now they are international. Mind you, admittedly, at least up here, we don’t hear much of them anymore. But people took them very seriously and fought against them and still do (as far as I know). While WBC is small, totally agree there, I still believe in my heart of hearts, that we cannot "ignore" them. It’s a balancing act. If we ignore them, only THEIR voice is heard and there ARE those (yes, morons to be sure) who will follow their lead. So we do need to counteract their crap with our voices in unison so as to balance off their evil crap. And sometimes that would include counter-demonstrating. And sometimes, the group Anonymous taking down their evil verbiage from websites. So while we are track with other things, perhaps with the WBC we are not. I do not agree in ignoring them. In fact, the more we make noise against their evil deeds, the more it gets into the news and the more the public will get to see/hear what they are doing. In other words, WE need to make a bigger deal out of their shit so that more and more people will see their hate out in the open (not just small news casts). I do believe that many people who are on the fence about Gay Rights, when they see this crap from WBC, may just change their minds and realize that it’s wrong WRONG to discriminate. Each mind/heart win-over can also have a trickle-down effect to others. And that is in line with what you say about the best predictor of people’s acceptance of Gay people, is knowing one. By being opened up, people will be more acceptive in getting to personally know a Gay person. Oh, just for clarity. Yes, I capitalize the word Gay even thought it’s a noun that doesn’t require, it unless it begins a sentence. BUT, I just feel that the word Gay when referring to people or our community deserves to have a capital letter! It may be improper grammar, but change is good! ;) LOL

  • GAG'EM, 2013-07-22 13:07:17

    I feel that we have discussed this topic enough so I’m just going to say that good, decent people can disagree respectfully, as we have. It’s clear that we agree on the big issues, but not on specifics and tactics, which is OK. As for "paranoia", I don’t want to be too pedantic, but as an English teacher, I’m a stickler for words being using accurately. I realize that in common discourse "paranoia" and "paranoid" are often used as synonyms for "fear" and "afraid", but they really aren’t. But I’m glad we cleared up that misunderstanding.

  • BlondieSL, 2013-07-22 13:56:15

    It’s completely true that sometimes words are used incorrectly and/or we lose the base or real meanin. So I just had to go to Oxford to look up Paranoid as a refresher. Over the many decades, I had lost it’s correct meaning and was using it incorrectly. Paranoid, "unreasonably or obsessively anxious, suspicious, or mistrustful:" (emphasis on unreasonably). So yes, it looks like I was using the word incorrectly. So thanks for pointing that out and it’s good for someone like me, not a teacher, to refresh once in a while since we do, as humans, tend to change meanings. And being meticulous isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, I usually am, but sometimes, just lose sight of that. Must be an aging thing!;) LOL I’m going to try to use, perhaps, the word "cautious" since that really is more of what I mean. So again, Thanks! Discussion really is great when done respectfully, as we’ve done here.

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