Kansas-based hate group forced out in Flight 3407 protest
Kansas-based hate group, Westboro Baptist Church, was forced out in one Flight 3407 protest scheduled today near St. Joseph University Catholic Church where a Memorial Service was scheduled for human rights activist Alison Des Forges. Des Forges was one of the victims of Continental Flight 3407 that crashed just outside of Buffalo, NY, on February 12th.
This afternoon's counterdemonstration near UB's South Campus was planned after the Topeka group, a fringe organization whose members hold virulent anti-gay views and who protest at funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced it was going to picket a memorial service for human rights advocate Alison Des Forges, one of the 50 victims of the crash.
The group's Web site address is "Godhates..." with the final word being a derogatory term for gays. Westboro Baptist also is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League, and is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
More than 150 people lined an area of Main Street near Niagara Falls Boulevard, an effort they said was intended to shield those attending the service for Des Forges from having to view the Westboro group.
Organizers said about 90 of the counterdemonstrators were wearing white plastic angel wings. Others carried large white cloths, some fashioned into large flags, which they held while standing along sidewalks.
Many of those gathered were UB students.
Kitty Lambert, president of OUTspoken For Equality, a local gay rights advocacy group, stressed the counterprotesters' intentions.
Lambert said she hopes the Des Forges family knows the event was intended "not to disrupt, but to support."
"This was done because we love what Alison stood for," she said.
Earlier, the group assembled at an area in Clarence Center designated for the protest by local and state police.
The counterdemonstrators, including more than 60 wearing the white plastic angel wings, crowded two street corners across from the three-person protest at Clarence Center and Goodrich roads.
The Westboro demonstration was intended to coincide with what the hate group thought would be a community prayer service for victims of the crash being held at Zion Lutheran Church, just two blocks from where the protesters gathered. However, church officials said they were holding normal Sunday services.
"Hatred in the name of Jesus is a despicable thing," said Zion Lutheran Pastor Randy Milleville.
The counterprotests took many forms, and included individuals from across Western New York, as well as groups including Vietnam Veterans Legacy Club.
Also on NowPublic:
"Westboro Church says it will protest at Flight 3407 Memorials"
Special News Coverage Continental Flight 3407