Tucson angels to shield mourners from Westboro Baptists
There are still communities left in these United States willing to stand up to bigotry and ignorance, reports CNN. The city of Tucson, Ariz., where the horrific Safeway shooting at the hands of Jared Lee Loughner occurred, will not allow Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church to come near the mourners of the dead to harangue them with hate speech. The way will be barred by angels’ wings.
Tucson is planning ‘angel action’ against hate
Tucson, which city resident Christin Gilmer described to CNN as a “caring, loving, peaceful community,” will take an “angel action” against the Westboro Baptist Church, which plans to picket the funerals of those Jared Loughner killed. Angel action is the brain child of Colorado resident Romaine Patterson, who conceived the idea after the Westboro Baptist Church protested outside the 1999 funeral of Matthew Shepherd, a gay man who was beaten to death in Wyoming.
How the angel action will work
Select volunteers will wear 8- by 10-foot angel wings during the funeral in order to physically shield mourners from Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church’s hate messages. As Gilmer – who is organizing the angel action – told CNN, the wings will provide “a peaceful haven” for those with love in their hearts.
Goodness is bi-partisan
Political representatives right, left and center have offered up support for Tucson’s angel action. Facebook pages entitled “Build Angel Wings for the Westboro Funeral Counter-Protest and Meeting” and “Show Support for the Families of the Tucson Shooting Victims” have attracted thousands of fans. Some have even donated money and material to help construct the wings. According to Gilmer, all funds donated will help pay for the funeral services of the Tucson shooting victims.
Not a counter-protest
Chelsea Cohen, a 20-year-old senior at Tucson’s University of Arizona who started the “Show Support” Facebook page, told CNN that the activities of the support groups are not specifically intended to be a counter-protest. They do not want to attract attention to themselves, asthe Westboro Baptist Church does. They also do not want to disrupt the funeral.
“We wanted it to show support for the families and to show that Tucson is there with love and support,” said Cohen.
UPDATE: The Westboro Baptist Church has agreed not to protest at the funeral of the 9-year-old girl who was killed, in exchange for live TV and radio interviews. The church will, however, still protest others Tucson shooting victims’ funerals.