Saturday, February 11, 2012

Social media users plan to block Westboro Baptist Church from picketing Powell boys' funeral

Social media users plan to block Westboro Baptist Church from picketing Powell boys' funeral

  • Facebook screenshot photo
Hundreds of people are banding together on Facebook and other social media sites with a plan to shield mourners at Charlie and Braden Powell's Saturday funeral from protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The Kansas-based church, known for picketing funerals for U.S. soldiers as a form of anti-gay protest, said Wednesday it planned to picket the memorial in protest of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s support of gay marriage, KIRO 7 news partner The News Tribune reported. Occupy Seattle later said it would counter-protest.

From The Tribune:

Margie Phelps, daughter of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s founder, tweeted Wednesday night that the church will attend the boys’ memorial service. The protest is to “remind” Gov. Chris Gregoire “they died because of her rebellion,” a reference to her support of same-sex marriages.


In a later tweet referencing a story about Washington legalizing same-sex marriage, Phelps wrote “This is why God’s cursed you w Josh Powells blowing up kids.”

Jason and Annika Smith of Tacoma said they're so upset with Westboro's threat of protest, they've joined other people online to condemn what the church is planning.

"It's disgusting. I don't even understand it," Annika Smith said.

"The fact that Westboro is trying to capitalize on this tragedy is just, it's an outrage," Jason Smith said.

The couple said they're looking for ways to visibly block out the Westboro protesters, perhaps by holding up blankets or sheets of fabric.

"We're not trying to yell at them, we're not trying to get anyone angry; we're just trying to make sure these people can actually  mourn in peace," said Jason Smith of Tacoma, one of the counter-protest organizers.

Occupy Seattle told The Tribune it doesn’t plan to disrupt the funeral, but wants to “protect it from Westboro’s abhorrent message.”

In response to Wesboro's plans, Alina Powell, the boys' aunt, sent this message to KIRO 7 via email (original emphasis and formatting retained):

"I have just received confirmation that the Westboro Baptist Church is planning to protest my nephews' funeral.  This is a horrible, disdainful act that serves no purpose other than to continue the years-long objectification of those little boys.  Charlie and Braden were not trophies to be won and paraded around; they were not bait to ferret out 'guilt' in a man; they were not 'evidence' in a 'crime'; and they most certainly arenot political pawns to be used by a church to spread yet more messages of HATE!  They are only little boys and they deserve better!  I am LIVID that my nephews continue to be used as a tactical maneuver, and I am LIVID that their service will be besmirched by an event a loving God would never approve!  Please let my nephews rest in peace!!  Hate has taken far too great a toll on us ALL already!--Please, STOP THE HATE!"

The funeral is scheduled to happen at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Life Center Church in Tacoma. Representatives there told KIRO 7 extra security will be on hand Saturday, as well as Pierce County Sheriff's deputies and Tacoma police.

"We are committed to honoring Charlie and Braden by allowing those closest to them to mourn in a loving, solemn and dignified manner," Life Center said in a statement.

Life Center added that any groups attempting to use media attention for political demonstrations will be asked to remain off church property.

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