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Students block out Westboro with counter-protest

Manhattan High shows support for LBGTQ in wake of Westboro Baptist protest

Junior+Tanya+Singh+waves+to+bystanders+and+holds+up+a+sign+during+the+protest+against+the+Westboro+Baptist+Church+on+Thursday.+Students+and+faculty+at+Manhattan+High+School+stood+outside+the+grounds+of+MHS+as+a+form+of+protest+against+the+Westboro+Baptist+Church.+Students+held+signs+displaying+their+pride+and+support+for+the+LGBTQ%2B+community+like+Singh%27s+with+positive+messages+like+%22they+hate+whom+they+fear%22+
Junior Tanya Singh waves to bystanders and holds up a sign during the protest against the Westboro Baptist Church on Thursday. Students and faculty at Manhattan High School stood outside the grounds of MHS as a form of protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. Students held signs displaying their pride and support for the LGBTQ+ community like Singh's with positive messages like

Junior Tanya Singh waves to bystanders and holds up a sign during the protest against the Westboro Baptist Church on Thursday. Students and faculty at Manhattan High School stood outside the grounds of MHS as a form of protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. Students held signs displaying their pride and support for the LGBTQ+ community like Singh's with positive messages like "they hate whom they fear"

Photo by Olivia Haas.

Photo by Olivia Haas.

Junior Tanya Singh waves to bystanders and holds up a sign during the protest against the Westboro Baptist Church on Thursday. Students and faculty at Manhattan High School stood outside the grounds of MHS as a form of protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. Students held signs displaying their pride and support for the LGBTQ+ community like Singh's with positive messages like "they hate whom they fear"

Micheal Simmons, Blue M Editor-in-Chief

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On the cold, dark morning of Thursday, the roaring voices of hundreds of Manhattan High students and teachers filled the air as they came together to counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church.

Less than 10 WBC members stood within 100 feet of the counter-protest, holding signs saying “God mocks America” and “Fags are doomed.”

“The students are excited to be out here,” superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade said. “I’m really proud of the fact that they are behaving so appropriately. Standing here watching this group [of students] is exciting but also watching the students drive past the other side [where the Westboro members are]…they are not acknowledging those other individuals.”

WBC gave a press release on Sunday announcing that they would protest MHS, due to their recent title of the most supportive community for the LGTBQ in Kansas awarded by the Human Rights Campaign.

After hearing the intercom announcement from Manhattan High principal Greg Hoyt about the protest that WBC would be holding at MHS, Student Body President Parker Wilson, senior, decided to hold a protest of his own. The counter-protest was in support of the Manhattan High Gay-Straight Alliance, who the protest was specifically aimed against.

As cheers of the MHS students grew louder and engine roars from students arriving at school became more often, the WBC protest was brought to nothing but silence.

Senior Alex Heidlage cheers for love and tolerance. “Believe in yourself” was one of the many messages the 100 plus students spread in front of Manhattan High School. The student protest was held in response to the Westboro Baptist Church protest, where church members held anti-LGBTQ signs with sayings such as “fags are beasts.”

“I didn’t actually get to hear anything they said because of everyone [around me blocking it out],” Wilson said. “I did see one of their signs, and I just don’t get it. There is enough hate that people have to deal with, with things going on in their daily lives or the stress of high school, so I don’t understand why bring more. I was just glad that the positive message of our side was heard more than the hateful, insulting comments they were trying to throw at us.”

WBC members have traveled the country hosting several protests, giving the same message that they gave Manhattan High. WBC protested Grand Blanc High School in Michigan because a transgender student was listed on their homecoming court. During this protest, Grand Blanc students had the same response Manhattan High did, which is refusing to listen to WBC and instead show support for their community. Despite their audience having this reaction multiple times, WBC continues to preach the same message.

“These children have been raised in lies,” WBC member Rebekah Phelps-Roper said. “I have been raised in the truth of God, [these children] are told from the cradle that you are perfect just the way you are and that you can engage in whatever sin you want to and the lord is going to love you and you’re going to go to heaven and you have nothing to worry about, and that is the worst lie you can tell someone. [This lie] does not cause them to repent and it doesn’t cause them to see that they need a savior like all humans stand in need of a savior.”

While the counter-protest did bring attention to WBC’s message, GSA did not take part in the protest as an organization. Some members still chose to partake in the protest, but the majority of the club thought it better to ignore the WBC.

“I didn’t really look at their signs,” junior and GSA president Anya Wesley said. “I’m aware of what they say and I’m not really to affected by it because I have a good support system, so it made [the signs] almost funny because of how outlandish it was. I feel saddened for the people who are affected by these things, like for those who see it outside of school and then see the same thing, that’s disheartening.”

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Students block out Westboro with counter-protest”

  1. Bella on November 7th, 2018 10:49 am

    We’re strong and we have a voice. It doesn’t matter the voice’s identity.

  2. Bethany Grace Howe on November 8th, 2018 2:05 pm

    I just wanted to compliment Micheal Simmons and the editors at The Mentor for a well-done story. As a transgender woman and former high school journalism teacher I can appreciate the difficulty of managing this topic – especially giving the WBC space to spout their hatred. That is what journalists do, however: we give voice to all, without fear or favor. Even when – especially when – those views are unpopular.
    Again, nice job. Perhaps someday my travels will take me to Manhattan and I can stop by and tell all of you in person.

    Sincerely,
    Bethany Grace Howe
    University of Oregon
    Caitlyn Jenner Foundation
    Taft High School, Oregon (emeritus)

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Students block out Westboro with counter-protest