United Against Hate: Spokane stands up to Westboro

SPOKANE - Messages of hate shouted through the Inland Northwest on Thursday, but instead of ignoring the message or responding with violence, Spokane stood strong and united.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church came to Spokane, armed with signs thanking god for the death of soldiers and for cancer.

"You have taught your children, that is why we are hitting all these schools, that's where they sit and are taught rebellion," shouted one Westboro member.

One small group of activists were met with hundreds of people near Gonzaga, prepared to stand together and drown out those words with the peaceful strength of their community.

Police were on hand as the six activists spread their message of a "doomed" America.

"This is breast cancer awareness... each time you have a dead woman from breast cancer - that is a god smack," shouted another activist.

At just 13-years old, Jonah Phelps-Roper is one of Westboro's youngest. Phelps says he came to Spokane to talk about the sins of America.

"Fags, that's definitely one," said Phelps. "Priests rape children, fornication."

The rhetoric, marred with hateful messages, was critical of America's role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Don't send your spoiled rotten child you have taught to rebel against every standard and every principal, over to a foreign land to use their people as target practice," shouted another Westboro member.

The people of Spokane responded. Some showed up on motorcycles to drown out the noise

"I am just a guy in the community who is trying to do something good," said one of the riders.

Others played music over the sounds of the protesters, hoping a more powerful message would prevail.

"We're just standing up for the thousands and thousands of people in Spokane," said Nicole Beam.

With a very clear purpose, hundreds answered the call against hate.

"I felt it was important for the community of Spokane to expel hate," said Drew Pollom, organizer of Gonzaga's sit-in.

After the they were finished at Gonzaga, Westboro members went to Whitworth University where they were faced with just as many people working for the good of the community.

Westboro protesters planned to be outside Ferris High School when classes were let out, but school officials made the decision to dismiss students early. Still several hundred students and community members showed up to greet Westboro activists.

Activists were planning to protest outside a South Hill synagogue Thursday evening, before heading over to Coeur d'Alene for another full day of protests outside schools on Friday.