Nothing like a bit of your own medicine, or ambiguous divine intervention – whichever way people choose to see it – to take a group down a peg or two, and that is exactly what happened to the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma at the weekend. Equipped with their usual array of brightly colored paraphernalia depicting stupidly offensive messages the extremist organization pitched up at the Central Junior High School in the town all ready to do their usual performance of spewing hate and intolerance, but the townspeople had other ideas. In a show of admirable support and community spirit the resident of the Oklahoma town sent the preachers packing with a counter protest on the opposite side of the road.
The Westboro Baptist Church held a permit to stage their protest outside of the school, which is currently home to students of Plaza Towers Elementary who were left homeless after a devastating tornado hit the town last year. The motivation behind their picketing of the school was to claim that the tornado was sent as a punishment from God in response to the world’s condoning of homosexuality. This is part of a one track record for the group who regularly wave signs emblazoned with words such as “God Hates Fags” and other homophobic slogans. The locals were clearly disgusted by this attempt to undermine the deaths of innocent people including children, with one female resident calling it, “sickening” and said she couldn’t believe anyone could think in the manner shown by the Westboro Baptist Church followers.
Either way the radical protesters were unprepared for the reaction of the town of Moore as they were clearly intimidated by the sheer number of townsfolk who stood in opposition to them. Although they had a permit to remain in place protesting for thirty minutes from 2pm, they scampered fairly quickly when residents started to cross the picket lines. Many thought that they just hadn’t expected any intervention as the weather was wet and so might dissuade people from coming outside. Others just found the humor in the situation as despite their loud words their faith in the Lord’s protection clearly deserted them as the Westboro Baptist Church were sent packing by an unorganized counter protest by the locals in Oklahoma. They were seen running to their cars and driving off quickly after police had been called in order to keep the peace and maintain order between the two sides. One resident commented that he had laughed throughout the entire event as he watched the group scuttle off in fear with one man telling KFOR, “they shagged tail” before racing off in their cars.There was further humor after the Westboro Baptist Church posted a video online in the aftermath of their hasty protest, which managed to edit out any aspect of the opposition they faced. Needless to say, it was a rather short video.
The police later stated that no arrests had been made in connection with the event and no-one was harmed during the process. They also claimed that despite the rising tensions in the two crowds, the Moore residents stayed reasonably respectful towards the hate group. This in itself would suggest that while the people of Oklahoma were happy they sent the Westboro Baptist Church packing with their counter protest – they did not take the group seriously enough to actually allow the situation to escalate. At the end of the day, they had the last laugh and made the vitriolic nonsense that the Westboro Baptist Church insist on peddling, look as utterly ridiculous as the group themselves did as they hightailed it out-of-town.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion