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Hundreds Demonstrate Against Westboro Baptist Church Near Fort Meade

A large crowd staged a counter-protest against five members of the Kansas-based church who gathered to demonstrate their anti-gay views near Meade High School.

Several hundred people rallied at the intersection of Disney Road and Route 175 Thursday morning to counter the presence of five Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) demonstrators near Meade High and Meade Middle schools.

The counter-demonstration featuring local students and community members gathered well before sunrise to rally against the message of the Kansas-based church, which is known for its anti-gay views.

Church members were or , but were relegated to the northeast corner of Disney Road and Annapolis Road in Severn. Counter-protesters lined up on the west side of Disney Road.

The members of Westboro Baptist are known for their highly charged protests of the funerals of military members, claiming their deaths are punishment for America's acceptance of homosexuals. 

Earlier this week, community members began to use social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the counter-protest. For some, the counter-demonstration was more than just an opportunity to make their voices heard—it was personal.

Jamie Hensley, a Fort Meade resident, Army wife and disc jockey who broadcasts over the Internet for soldiers, said Westboro Baptist members specifically targeted her in the past because of her involvement with the military.

“I’ve gotten hate mail from them. [The counter-protest] means a lot to me because they have wished that people in my family would come home in body bags,” said Hensley.

Sharon Lewis, a state department of transportation worker from Brooklyn Park, led a small group in singing "Amazing Grace," while holding her Bible. She said the views of the Westboro Baptist Church were counter to her understanding of God's teachings.

"My partner and I have been together for 26 years. How dare they?” Lewis said. “Hate can never win. I’m sorry, hate can never win. It’s all about love.”

Local students from throughout the region were present for the event as well, with numerous sweatshirts from local schools visible throughout the crowd.

Nick Caroselli, a sophomore at Towson University and graduate of Old Mill High, drove home to protest the WBC member’s presence.

“I strongly oppose the Westboro Baptist Church. The fact they’re protesting in front of a middle school and high school in front of the kids, it’s sickening to me,” said the 10-year Severn resident.

Tauren Lovell, a 2008 Meade High graduate now attending Frostburg State University, staged a peaceful counter-protest with graffiti art. Lovell knelt on a grassy area and used spray paint on a poster to create a scene with the words “Meade Senior High Counter-Strike.”

“I’m all for equality. Personally, I found it offensive that they chose to focus their attack on children at their place of education on a school day,” said Lovell, who is part of a group called “Freight Train Graffiti.”

Located at the CVS parking lot on Disney Road, the several hundred counter-protesters shouted chants of disapproval towards the five WBC demonstrators just across the street such as, “Hey hey ho ho, homophobes got to go!”

The miscellaneous shouts were muted by the deafening thunder of the Hogs for
Heroes motorcycles as they passed the demonstration every two minutes. The WBC members sang along to lyrically-altered pop songs like Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” as they held signs that read phrases like “Pray for More Dead Soldiers.”

Despite the large numbers of the highly impassioned crowd opposing the Kansas-based church, police needed to do little besides stand in the road between the two sides as both demonstrated peacefully.

After the WBC members packed up their signs around 7:10 a.m., the crowd was generally pleased with the showing and the several hundred people who came out.

“I think we did pretty good,” said Hensley.

Amy April 14, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Maybe they got more attention than they are worth? Five people with signs aren't that newsworthy. A big counter-protest is. So Westboro gets free publicity and media coverage with almost no effort.
Rick A April 14, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Seems the media coverage won't stop, no matter what, so might as well have a counter protest -- the more the merrier. These yo-yos need to realize that while they may be protected by free speech, so are we.
debby April 14, 2011 at 05:57 PM
When they protest, I don't think they realize that their protests generate discussions about tolerance within families exposed to their protest signs and slogans. I think that there are very few "christians" that would line up in favor of Westboro's practices. I think that there are many "christians" who are prompted by Westboro's signs and slogans to engage in discussions about tolerance and acceptance with their children. I have had to do that with my 9 year old son. He wanted to know "what's with those signs, mom, I thought "god" loves everyone." After a long discussion, I told him that I thought that "god" loves the Westboro people as well, though he may not be happy with their signs and slogans.
Nick April 14, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Who cares about the news coverage? I, personally, didn't go for the WBC- I went to show the 13 year old kids walking to school exactly what hate looks like, and that our love is stronger.
Tracy April 14, 2011 at 07:03 PM
When they protest it actually brought the community CLOSER together. Those Phelps families are a bunch of crazies. They are nothing but media loving. They are a disgrace to human life. They are not a church they are a CULT. A family of 13. How about when Daddy Phelps passes we go protest at his funeral telling Crazy Pop's to burn in hell.
Joyce Brayboy April 14, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Meade Highschool answered to parents concerns about having the protest near the high school on post by 1.) Having an assistant principals watchful of the situation, 2.) By providing busses for concerned students to take in lieu of walking and by 3.) Scheduling time in class to address the issue and field questions from students. As a Meade High parent, and a civilian employee on Fort Meade, I felt comfortable with the way the protest was handled.
Amber April 15, 2011 at 02:14 AM
As a student at Meade high I feel like the protest was a good way to support my school and show the crazies where they belong we not only got to express the freedom of speech but the right to protest and freedom of religion the experience was great and didn't end in a riot so that's even better
Dan April 15, 2011 at 02:28 AM
look, i don't believe in gay marriage either. but that is just my opinion and i have a right to it like anyone has a right to their own opinion in this country. But these people are absolutely insane. protecting militatry funerals for those who have fought for this country and lost their lives doing so????? WTF???? #1. protesting military funerals because america accepts gays and gay marriage is rediculas. that's like blaming a flat tire on a load of dirty laundry. they have NOTHING to do with each other. DUH!!! #2. how dare you protect and moch, humiliate, defame or protest ANY soldier who has died for this country. they died for you to have a right to free speech and then you pull this crap??!!! maybe you should be chained up and thrown on an IAD. you don't deserve to even live in this country. MOVE OUT IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT!!! Lastly, how could that supreme court judge hold a seat of that magnitude and allow this to happen and even give them permission to do it????????????? tell them it is their RIGHT??? Have you COMPLETELY lost your mind??? that is NOT justice! it's not hard to see why our country is rapidy becoming the laughing stock of the entire world. in most countries these protesters would be shot on the spot and a judge like that would not only lose his seat on the supreme court but would probably be expelled from the country.
Dan April 15, 2011 at 02:30 AM
"But these people are absolutely insane. protecting militatry funerals for those who have fought for this country" was SUPPOSED to say PROTESTING, not protecting. my bad
Mike Calo April 15, 2011 at 06:02 PM
I LIKE this idea!!! I'll chip in for gas for the busses!!!
Appaloosa April 16, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Sad that in America, the family of a man or woman fighting in a conflict on foreign soil has a greater fear than the Chaplain knocking on your door. The fear of the Westboro BAPTIST Church demonstrating at the funeral. Wonder when their religious non profit statues was last checked and who funds this fmily of lawyers? They are scum of the earth terrorists. America needs to take the appropriate action against these domestic terrorists. I guess if they were muslim, they would have been in GITMO already! I like what an Oklahoma town did. They flattened every tire and was not a tire shop in OK that would repair them. They had to hire tow trucks from Kansas to come get them and haul them home. We need more people like the Okies.
Appaloosa April 16, 2011 at 01:56 AM
BOTTOM LINE: By protesting at funerals in view of grieving families is nothing more than an act of hate and TERRORISM. Both of which were illegal until the Supreme Court stepped into the fray. It is emotional terrorism. Their motives, venues and desired results are no different than what happened on 9/11. The sad part is they direct it at grieving people personally that have nothing to do with government policy. This is no different than killing thousands on 9/11 for government policies. Since when does terrorism have the right to free speech in America? In my opinion, the Supreme Court sided with terrorists. They need to go!
Joe Rizoli April 19, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Joe Rizoli CCFIILE.com states: The WBC protest are rather interesting. They feel they are on a prophetic mission, so be it. They came to my town too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_1w6-fk9Jw Joe CCFIILE.com

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