Many members of our community plan to be at Wilson High School tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. to join a peaceful counter-protest against Westboro Baptist Church, which intends to picket the school over its LGBTQ Pride Day. Wilson actually held its pride day last week, and it made the news when Wilson’s principal himself came out as gay during the event. Wilson’s high school newspaper, The Beacon, was there to cover it, and we’ve been given permission to share the following article on the upcoming Westboro protest, from the last edition of the 2013-2014 school year.
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Wilson Beacon videographer
The Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket Wilson High School from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. on June 9. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a Kansas-based church known for its radical religious beliefs, its extreme protests against gay marriage, and its pickets at funerals for soldiers.
[quote_right]Wilson students and outside supporters have come together in such a unified way that almost 1,000 plan on attending the WBC counter-protest…[/quote_right]There are 40 members of WBC, most of whom are relatives of Fred Phelps, who was the head of the church until his death in March. The church’s first service was held in 1955. Its anti-gay picketing started in 1991 in Kansas and then traveled around the country. WBC is generally considered a “hate group” and does not receive much outside support.
In 2009 WBC set out to picket Sidwell Friends School in D.C., and over 150 students met the protest with signs of their own. Some of the signs read, “There is that of God in Everyone” and “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked it.” WBC had previously referred to Malia and Sasha Obama as “satanic spawns” and, because of their attendance at Sidwell, chose to protest outside of their school. The same year, WBC picketed Wilson, and students reacted similarly to Sidwell’s students in 2009 with signs and a protest of their own.
Now, five years later, WBC is visiting Wilson again to protest Wilson’s LGBTQ+ Pride Day. Immediately after WBC announced these plans, Wilson students Kellik Dawson and Brian Keyes took to Facebook and started planning a peaceful counter-protest. Hundreds of supporters, excited to stand up for their beliefs, have already posted on the Facebook group, titled Westboro Meet and Greet. Students plan on creating posters, holding rainbow flags and standing together against the WBC.
Wilson students and outside supporters have come together in such a unified way that almost 1,000 plan on attending the WBC counter-protest in order to support LGBTQ+ Pride Day at Wilson. Principal Pete Cahall said in an email to one of the Facebook group founders, Brian Keyes, that although the school couldn’t officially endorse the protest, students would not face consequences for participating. Openly gay mayoral candidate David Catania asked D.C. residents to stand with Wilson “in support of tolerance and respect.”
Senior Josh Kennedy-Noce took to the Facebook group to share his own story growing up with two moms.
“I’m super excited for this protest because I want to show these haters that family comes in so many shapes and sizes,” he wrote. This post received over 130 likes and the support of many people in the group.
“I get really passionate about stuff like this,” said Gus Marrkand, an openly gay Wilson freshman. “Who are they to tell me who I can love and who I can get married to.”
Marrkand has the support of his peers, Wilson’s principal Pete Cahall, and D.C. Councilmember David Catania.