OSU students counter, mock anti-gay rally
Published: Monday, October 4, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church made a dramatic appearance at OSU Monday morning on their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
To counter the brief rally by members of Westboro, known for its anti-gay and anti-America sentiments, nearly 100 students gathered on the corner of 11th Avenue and High Street.
Armed with free cookies, rainbow umbrellas and signs proclaiming "Love not Hate" and "God Loves All People," the counter-protesters outnumbered the six adults and two children who represented the Kansas-based church.
Westboro, an independent Baptist church known for protesting at funerals of U.S. soldiers and gay people, was slated to appear in front of the Ohio Union. But the group decided to stage its rally in front of the Moritz Law School instead.
Police denied The Lantern's attempts to speak to the protesters about why they chose to rally at OSU, but a statement on the group's website says OSU students "spend more time pursuing their drunken sins than their academic studies" and that OSU professors teach "the ubiquitous lie that ‘it's OK to be gay.'"
The church members displayed colorfully decorated signs while dancing and singing along to what sounded like popular songs, such as the Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." and Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."
Closer inspection of the signs gave a clearer indication of their messages:
"Pray for More Dead Soldiers."
"Antichrist — Obama."
"Fags Doom Nations."
And the song lyrics were changed from Freddie Mercury's original version of the popular song by Queen to: "Fat-bottomed whore will, by our mighty Lord, go down."
Mercury was gay and died in 1991 of complications from AIDS.
Most of the counter-protesters, separated from the Westboro group by a line of Columbus and OSU police officers, didn't seem fazed by the church group and said they came to mock the church's slogans. The counter-protesters displayed signs with slogans such as "God Hates Trekkies" and "I'm feeling fat and sassy."
OSU employee Jason Johns joked that he agreed with Westboro's statement that OSU students drink too much.
"I'd make it my Facebook status if it weren't so long," he said, laughing.
But Johns said he disagrees with Westboro's message.
"They're just a small group of people who are trying to get their own in the spotlight — by any means necessary," he said. "So they will come out and say stupid s---."
Matt Ripley, a fourth-year in environmental science, held a sign that read "Free Hugs." He tried to get close to the Westboro protesters to offer an embrace, but police told him to leave.
"I'm just out here offering free hugs because I think what the world needs is free hugs," Ripley said.
The counter-protesters were quiet and most chose to speak through their signs rather than chants. The most commonly heard phrases among the group were "Free hugs!" and "Free cookies!" Most in the group were students, but many OSU faculty, alumni and Columbus residents attended the rally.
Columbus and OSU police said the protest was relatively peaceful and they encountered few problems. Columbus Police Commander Terry Moore, who estimated that there were 20 to 30 city police officers there for security, said they had known about the rally for a couple weeks.
"We had no intelligence that suggested there would be any real problems," Moore said. "We did our standard plan for these types of demonstrations, and it went as expected."
The protest, scheduled from 10 to 10:30 a.m., started late and was over around 10:25 a.m. Afterward, the Westboro group quickly hopped into a van as some in the crowd chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, these homophobes have got to go!"
The rally at OSU was part of Westboro's "I-70 GodSmack Tour: from WBC to DC," a tour which has taken the group from Kansas to Washington, D.C. The group members are headed to the nation's capital to support their leader, Fred Phelps, in the case Snyder v. Phelps, which will be presented Wednesday to the Supreme Court. Albert Snyder, the father of a fallen marine, is suing Phelps, saying Phelps caused him emotional distress after members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested at his son's funeral in 2006. Snyder was awarded nearly $11 million in the suit, but the case was appealed by Phelps and thrown out because of First Amendment rights.
OSU spokesman Jim Lynch wasn't concerned about the rally.
"Our students here at Ohio State know that this is a very inclusive campus that rejects any form of prejudice, exclusion or disrespect," Lynch said. "A brief half-hour visit by (Westboro) will, in no way, sidetrack our university's long-standing values of diversity and inclusion."