Large counter-protests assemble as Westboro Baptist Church pickets downtown Spokane

Large counter-protests assemble as Westboro Baptist Church pickets downtown Spokane

A handful of Westboro Baptist Church members began protesting in front of the Convention Center in downtown Spokane on Thursday and were met with a crowd of counter-protesters.

“I can’t believe that someone would sit here and hold a sign like that,” said Randy Wagar. “Why the hate, why so much hate?”

The members of the church, known for its hateful messages towards homosexuals, divorce, American soldiers, environmentalists, scientists, and other churches, were specifically protesting the North American Association of Environmental Education which was holding a conference inside.

“They are all lying about God and what his words say,” said Jael Holroyd, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. “That’s awful, that is evil.”

She believes science is a false religion and told KXLY that the group’s message is actually done in kindness, as opposed to hate.

“It’s not a personal animus, we care for you all,” she said.

Counter-protesters weren’t buying that line, especially at Gonzaga were more than a hundred students turned out to protest the church members.

Westboro Baptist Church members said they included protesting at Gonzaga on their schedule, because of the Jesuit background of the school.

“Those students are walking the wrong path,” said Holroyd. “It’s not a good university.”

But even as anger rose and voices got louder, students protesting knew what they were there for, standing up against intolerance and exercising their rights.

“We thought it would be a good exercise in the first amendment,” said Gonzaga Law student Kyle Madsen. “We get to say what we say, and we will let them say what they say.”

At both locations there was a heavy police presence, with dozens of police officers keeping the peace, separating the counter-protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church members.

The church, according to its website, will continue its protest on Friday morning in front of the Lewis and Clark High School. According to the school district, students will not be in class due to a teacher development day.