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Reportback From GodHatesFags counterprotest

When I heard that the Westboro Baptist Church was coming to a Beaverton High School yesterday, my initial reaction was, "Won't somebody please think about the children!" However, after witnessing the counterprotest today, I realized that 'the children' are thinking for themselves.
As a youth, I was queer and in the closet. I grew up in the Midwest in a school of ninety kids. That's ninety counting kindergarteners, first grade and all the way up the line to seniors. Being out really wasn't an option. I suppose I could have done it. I would have been threatened, isolated and humilated on a daily basis with or without my family to support me. I couldn't do that. I thought of myself at that age today when I headed to Beaverton's Southridge High School.

When I got there, I counted seven bicycle cops, four cruisers, two mini-moblie cop units and one big armor truck. They had barricades laying across the street from the school. I surveyed the schoolyard, looking for a white van that belonged to the Church (they usually have a white van.) I came across one single counter-protester. I walked up and identified myself as being on her side and we shared stories about how we wanted to be there for the students. One officer rolled up on us and asked the lady (not bothering with me) to get behind the barricades as the members of the Westboro Baptist Church were coming soon. She informed the officer that she didn't feel that it was necessary for her to and that, in her opinion, it should be Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church members behind the barricades (which ended up happening.)

The corporate media was all over the place. There were several people from the Oregonian there. I saw Channel 8 and channel 6. A person from the Oregonian told us that they had printed the story a few days ago. We both informed them that we had just read about it on the net last night.

Students started to trickle out of the school and stopped to ask us if we were from Kansas. The lady (I'm sorry that I can't remember her name) shouted out that we were there to support them. They cheered and hung around the other side of the street. Then, the bigots arrived. There were only about eight or nine of them. Two of them appeared to be under nine years old. One of them was in her early teens. That was disheartening. They had signs that read "God Hates Fags" "Matt In Hell" "Thank God for Rita" and more. They weren't shouting as they had been previously. They all just got out of their vans, slithered in the barricades, held their signs and dragged a couple of amerikan flags.

The students however were much more lively. I was focussing on the hate-mongers and didn't notice the gathering of students at the other side. The lady who was countering with me had gone to join them as they gathered across the street from the bigots. I would guess around sixty or seventy students were out there with a few faculty members, mostly keeping the peace. A few of the students held signs that said things I would expect to hear in high school halls like "U = douchebag." However, some of the signs read "Homophobia sucks. Expect Diversity" and "Worst Cult Ever." One of the students yelled "I'm Lesbian and proud!" Another student brought a mini-megaphone and was chanting "We're here, we're queer, get used to it." The schoolbuses took more students out while they flipped off the bigots and cheered the counter-protesters.

Of course it was still a high school. I saw one student with a sign facing out the window that read "He's a fag" and it had an arrow pointed to the kid in front of him.

Despite that, I have to say that it was heartwarming to see the students standing together, defending their own ground against this formidible force of bigotry. After a while, the students called for everyone to turn their back on the bigots. Then they asked everyone to walk away, saying that these jerks weren't worth our attention. And I agreed with them. I went out to see that the students had support and I believe they did. I also believe that they knew that they could overcome this bigotry, both from the Phelps' bunch and the rest of the world.

wow, cool 30.Sep.2005 20:35

Ayleeas

I'm happy to hear these beaverton kids stood up against some bigots. Right on.

ironic 01.Oct.2005 08:51

Cheys

I really find it interesting that more time in front of a microphone was given to these homophobic psycho's, than the students at the school, but what I thought was really ironic was the fact that the time they let the crazy woman speek about all of us going to hell, was by far more time than I have seen any reporter give to a member of a political protest, and they treated her with more respect and patience. I guess the folks at the news station would much rather hear some psycho bable than the very clear articulate grievances of protesters out for social justice.

yes Cheys 01.Oct.2005 09:17

ialsonoticed

Your comment is so true. Corporate media has turned its back on true social journalism. My hope is that shining the light on these bigots and crackpots will eventually pay off by exposing them as the idiots they are to even the most sheltered of our citizens.

neat 01.Oct.2005 10:34

way tiz tho

Over 75% of the boys in the school ARE homophobic whether they protest against it or not. Ask the same ones 10 years from now when the moneys on the line and they will probably hate fags because thats how to kiss ass when you have to be one of duh guys or unemployed. The Portland area is isolated in this respect, homophobia is not some far off phenomena that occurs in "the midwest" or "the south". Take a trip to say. . . .Newberg. Maybe we need to concentrate on how we are literally surrounded by fascist rednecks right here in oh so cool Portland. In high school and college we do what we can to get laid. If my girl gets my support cuz her friends a munchie, who am I to be a homophobe? Dry and lonely.

Its cool that its still Ok to stand up for what you happen to believe in this week though. As long as its PC, and popular too! Hey mom, can I get that 50 bucks now? As long as its that easy, its this easy. Nice

they came to my school too 01.Oct.2005 11:03

Me

The god hates fags people came to my school in beaverton (arts and communications) last year too, but we weren't allowed to counter protest or anything unfortunately. They were only there for five minutes 'cause they didn't get any attention which was good, so nobody was able to see them really.

show em 01.Oct.2005 14:27

crew

Cheys: Don't feel too bad about the excellent treatment given the flakey hatemongers...there's the old adage you know..."give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves". I'm inclined to think that's what the reporter was doing. Those self absorbed, superior minded types are touchy, self righteous evasive, and don't like to be cornered. The bible gives them an iron clad argument amongst many of those subscribing to that document...they can't be easily countered on those grounds. But if you just let them spill their fetid guts....

"way tiz tho": It's a wacky society of highly conditioned people. Subscribe to a particular viewpoint or orientation held by a dominating, power wielding group, and there are rewards to reap. It can be costly to be an individual. Figuring out what is right and fair for all and holding to it against overwhelming opposition can be a very hard thing to do.

It's just amazing that some of those who profess to beleive and conduct their lives according to what the bible says, are able to interpret it in such a perverted way as demonstrated by the fred phelps gang.

I was there 01.Oct.2005 14:46

Chels katgurl1988@hotmail.com

It's funny how we were all told to not notice them, and keep walking, but not really anyone followed that. We were told that in school. Especially the theater students. But I think it's good that we showed them we didn't care. The students showed them that it didn't matter what they thought, because we are a diverse group of students who don't let hate ruin our lives.

Now unfortunately, I wasn't there. I had to walk home a way where I didn't even see them. I saw the one anti-protestor, and at first I almost thought THEY were one of the people coming to be against us. But it doesn't matter. Even if I did see them, I wouldn't have given them the time of day. I would've just walked past them, ignoring their protests, and gone home. Because they aren't worth it. They won't make me change my beliefs. And on that note, I am religious. I believe in God, and I don't necesarily think being gay is entirely right. But I also have friends who are like that, and I know how sweet they are. And I remember that it is not for me to judge them. God loves everyone, and it's going to be those protestors one day that are going to have to feel his wrath. Because treating people like dirt is NOT a way to get into heaven.

Free your speech! 02.Oct.2005 01:15

straight but gay-friendly in -yes!- Colorado

Appreciate the power we have as Americans to counteract. Make your voices known at every opportunity. Every time we speak out against hate-mongers, we exercise our civil liberties. We also speak to political machines. Just like any other muscle, (if you don't use it, you can lose it) our voices must always be exercised. VOTE. Get everyone you know to vote. Gay rights are not yet what they should be, but they're better than they were ten years ago, and they're better than they are in other parts of ther world. They got that way because brave souls speak out and vote!

Pride and Confusion 02.Oct.2005 05:52

E-rok bsuboy2005@hotmail.com

I moved to portland seven months ago after doing four years in an Idaho high school and two in its universities. During that time there were three visits to Boise by the phelps'. The funny thing is that, in a city that's enormously better known as "fag-hating" than portland is as "queer accepting", even Boise's high school and university students were outraged. It was also the only time any empathy was extended by the LDS and Christain churches who didn't want their homophobia confused with the phelps'. The confusion has come by watching fred phelps and his family, which truthfully has an incredible pedigree of law degrees and court acquitals, make these pitifull protests the media squares in on and all the people watching our "objective" media reporters see nothing but the raunchy and belligerent homophobes. He's the only person I've ever seen take the fire out of the queer-hating religious fundamentalists. If phelps wanted to do damage to the gay community he would stop scoring points for our side. Sorry Southridge, I'm very proud of the response you made and will bear with you, but this man who preys the meek will reach the corner he's been painting himself into soon eneugh. In the mean time, I'll keep watching his appearances and after swollowing the intitial blow I'll just sit back and smile, knowing that either bad strategy or unasked luck brought his adventitious message to the community. -E

Interesting 02.Oct.2005 06:33

K.C.Roberts

Well now,let me see if I have this right...God Hates"fags",but loves BIGOTS?
I'll have to admit,I'm very proud of the counter protesters,and even more,the students.Send a message to these hate-mongers that their kind has no place
in society.Love and compassion RULE!!!!!!!!!

Metta,
K.C.

What pisses me off is that Fred gets access... 02.Oct.2005 08:27

Pravda or Consequences

to demonstrate his bullshit, but the kids can't do their play as originally scheduled.

Not to late to learn Cynicism 101.

Joy! Love it. 03.Oct.2005 12:33

Fredric L. Rice frice@skeptictank.org

It's great to hear that the students turned out -- and that some of them had fun with it. "He's a fag" -- <ROFL!> Typical kids. But standing up and opposing hate is a good experience for young kids.

It's also a horror to read that the hate mongering Christian extremists had kids with them. Isn't that child abuse? Teaching one's kids hatred and bigotry like that?


my old ma madre 05.Oct.2005 23:50

annie aak@pdx.edu

that the school that i went to high school at, and graduating from in june. this was not the first time we have had trouble with that church. they threatened to protest at the Arts and Comunication adacamy in the same district, but chickened out last min. i was a member of the Gay Straigh Aliance, and there was always a lot of support and conflict at that school over "the gays". you also have to keep in mind that this whole protest was brought about because the drama dept was planning to put on the laramy project, and the principal canceled it, only to find that there were a lot of students passionatly agenst that action. keep an eye on this play, the show may still go on some time this year.

Crazy 20.Oct.2005 21:39

who am i?

so, i went to sounthridge for two years and it seems to have changed. while i went there kids were actually trying to stop the GSA, but i would have loved to be there for this and spoken out.

discussion

counter-protest 01.Oct.2005 05:27

karl roenfanz ( rosey ) k_rosey48@hotmail.com

"christianity" has produced more bigots per capita than any other fantasy.