EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Hundreds of East Providence High School students and othercommunity members turned out Friday afternoon to counter-protest aTopeka, KS church known for picketing funerals of gay victims ofmurder, gay-bashing or AIDS, as well as soldiers killed in action.But residents are coming out in force against the church'sactivities.
Westboro Baptist Church planned several protests for theafternoon throughout Rhode Island, including at the Rhode IslandState House, because according to the group's website, "They arethe most 'gay' friendly spot in DOOMED America."
Five of the protesters were from Westboro Baptist Church andnearly 100 others were there to protest against the churchmembers.
East Providence's school department sent out messages toparents, warning them of the protest, but plans to close schoolearly were scuttled.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church travel to locations allover the country to do similar protests. Since some of theiractivities have spurred scuffles, East Providence police arestationed at the corner of Pawtucket Ave. and Taunton Ave. to helpkeep the peace.
In addition to the students, other community members arereacting to the Westboro Baptist visit with protests of their own,including from the GLBT and GLBT-amenable community.
"It is outrageous... They are teaching their children this hate.Do not let them do it in our state! Drown out their voices!" readsthe organizer's description.
But some commenters at the event's page say the church is merelyclamoring for attention that is undeserved.
The Diocese of Providence and National Organization for MarriageRhode Island (NOMRI) both have stated their clear opposition toWestboro Baptist's planned demonstrations in the Ocean State.
"It's very unfortunate that members of the Westboro BaptistChurch have found their way to Rhode Island. In this community,while we often have vigorous debates about many issues, we try todo so in away that is civil and respectful," said Bishop Thomas J.Tobin. "I urge members of the Catholic Church in Rhode Island, andall the members of our community, to firmly reject the hateful anddivisive rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church."
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