by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Seattle, we're a sinful lot.
Because of that, we are the unlucky recipients of a Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) picketing, where the controversial members of the moronic group will condemn us for our wicked ways. Why won't these idiots just go away already?
The hate group has zeroed in on two events that, they say, are especially immoral: The Seattle SlutWalk, a protest against sexual assault, and the Seattle Pride Picnic at Volunteer Park.
For those of you not in the know (and on this one, ignorance really is bliss), the Topeka, Kansas-based church, headed by Fred Phelps, is known for demonstrating against homosexuality and picketing funerals of servicemembers, always with grossly inflammatory signs.
Seattle Out & Proud, the organization that produces the annual Pride Picnic, issued a statement regarding the scheduled picketing of their event. 'The WBC is scheduled to protest for 30 minutes, from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m., on June 19. & WBC is a small, virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that travels the country spreading a message of hate and intolerance and picketing events. They have gained notoriety by picketing events such as the funerals of Elizabeth Edwards and soldiers killed in war. By contrast, SO&P's mission is to create unity and honor diversity, and the picnic is all about celebrating love and equality.'
A Seattle Police Department East Precinct official told Seattle Gay News that, in fact, WBC picketers will not protest inside Volunteer Park like many originally thought. Instead, they will spew hate at 15th Avenue East and East Galer Street.
This makes SO&P's marketing director, Karolina Longoria, happy. 'It's not the adults that I am worried about; we can handle the nonsense,' she said. 'I just don't want any of the little kids to read the terrible messages on the signs they hold.'
Longoria's statement brings up an interesting point: Due to domestic partnership and adoption laws, the landscape of LGBT families has changed dramatically over the past few years. It is not uncommon to see children who have two daddies or two mommies. There is no doubt children will be present at the picnic.
'Organizations like the WBC are by their nature divisive and isolationist,' said Adam Rosencrantz, president of the SO&P board of directors. 'Conversely, we're all about individuality and peace, and we invite all families of all kinds to come out to our picnic and celebrate unity and family with us. Not only will you be showing WBC that their hatemongering is not welcome in Seattle, we guarantee you'll have a fun time, as it's a great event.'
In a June 14 statement to the public, SO&P officials said, 'SO&P invited all in Seattle to show their support, not by engaging in counter-protests or mudslinging, but by attending the picnic and enjoying a fun, family-friendly day.'
But not everyone will heed that message. In fact, there is an official counter-protest in the works. Ben Crowther, a local activist, has organized the protest, which already has more than 700 people signed up on its Facebook event page.
'I'm just totally not feeling them being there, ya know?' Crowther tells his supporters on the FB page. 'This is Seattle, and we just don't stand for hatred or stupid signs here.'
Crowther is asking people to bring fun signs. His suggestions include 'God Hates Signs' and 'If God Hates Gays, Why Did He Make Us So Cute?'
He is telling fellow counter-protesters to 'keep it clever and classy.'
To be quite honest, the counter-protest sounds like it will be great fun and a good way to show WBC that they are not welcome in Seattle - all without violence and hateful rhetoric. Crowther has made it clear that the counter-protest won't be hateful, 'but it will be fun!'
Officials from the Seattle Police Department said they are expecting a small contingent from WBC, which will undoubtedly be grossly outnumbered by the throngs of LGBT families, singles, and supporters.
In addition, Crowther has turned the counter-protest into a fundraiser by getting Phelps-A-Thon (phelps-a-thon.com) involved.
'The Phelps-A-Thon is a fun, positive way for the local Seattle community to respond to the hateful message of the WBC,' Chris Mason, director of Phelps-A-Thon, told SGN. 'When the Phelps clan comes to protest the Seattle LGBT community, they will actually be raising money for that same community.'
Mason asks that people can log in to Phelps-A-Thon to make a monetary donation as a form of protest to the WBC's presence in Seattle. He says that 95% of the funds raised with go to Queer youth space, while Phelps-A-Thon retains 5% of the funds raised to run the website.
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