Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Westboro Baptist Church will face a counter-protest on its Oct. 25 visit to Ohio State, according to a Facebook event titled “No Hate at Ohio State.”
Kayleigh Brewer, a fifth-year in biology and the creator of the Facebook event, said she did not expect the event to be receiving so much attention, with more than 290 confirmed guests on Monday.
“I honestly did not think that it would have this many people joining in it,” Brewer said. “I just thought maybe to get the word out there.”
Brewer created the event after reading about the upcoming WBC visit and doing some research about the group.
“Something about that just struck a chord with me, protesting funerals,” Brewer said.
Mary Giardina, a third-year in mathematics and English, is one of the confirmed guests on the Facebook event, and said in an email she plans to be an active participant in the counter-protest.
“I will be at the protest, probably with a sign,” Giardina said in the email. “(Westboro Baptist Church’s) signs always say ‘God hates fags’ so I will probably go with ‘God loves fags.'”
Though Giardina disagrees with Westboro Baptist Church’s message, she said she recognizes the group has a right to protest, but will exercise her own rights as well.
“The beauty of America is that even if you’re wrong, you still have a right to express what you think and feel,” Giardina said. “If WBC was not allowed to protest at our public university, we would not be the America that the founding fathers imagined for us.”
In the picket schedule on the church’s website, it says that “God hates Ohio State University.”
“When this largest University in the nation put policies of disobedience to the Commandments of God into effect, you marked this nation for destruction,” the schedule said.
Kelsey Gallagher, a third-year in anthropology, is also a confirmed guest on the Facebook event page. She said she is going to the event to support the LGBTQ community and protest the hateful message Westboro Baptist Church promotes.
“Very politely, I think they (WBC) are ignorant,” Gallagher said. “They have a right to their own opinion, but I think the way they promote themselves is rude.”
The counter-protest is supposed to be peaceful, said Brewer, and is not a violent lashing-out at Westboro Baptist Church, Brewer said.
“Let’s not do anything physical, I do want people to know that was not the intention of this counter-protest,” Brewer said.
Gallagher said she agrees that the event should be non-violent, but also hopes people will join her in ignoring Westboro Baptist Church altogether.
“My goal is not necessarily a counter-protest,” Gallagher said. “I don’t want anyone to pay attention to them … They just want us to be angry.”
Giardina said in an email that she feels a need to counter-protest this year “because hate speech left unanswered is insidious.” Giardina was not at the counter-protest when WBC visited OSU last year Oct. 4.
“If we don’t respond, the situation gets worse,” Giardina said in the email. “If we don’t respond, we are a part of the problem.”
Brewer said her goal in creating the Facebook event was just to get the word out that Westboro Baptist Church was coming to campus, and to try to “spread love.”
Giardina said she agrees with the message of spreading love, but she also is attending the counter-protest to spread a message of acceptance.
“I think the goal of this protest is to show that we include and appreciate all people, whether they are LGBTQ, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist, etc.,” Giardina said. “Everyone plays a vital role in our campus community.”
Through the exponential growth of the event’s guest list, Brewer said she has learned not only that others at OSU agree with her message, but also that the students here are a community that will come together for a cause they believe in.
“I really appreciate the outpouring from the Ohio State that really reinforces my belief about the students: We stand united against forms of prejudice,” Brewer said. “It’s just really great to see that from my fellow students.”