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Westboro Baptist Church Picket Met with Counter-Rally of Hundreds at MRH

Westboro Baptist came to picket a Maplewood Richmond Heights production of The Laramie Project, and a counter-protest drew supporters from all over.

Westboro Baptist Church came to Maplewood to picket the Maplewood Richmond Heights theater class production of The Laramie Project on Saturday, and a much larger group, supporting the students, gathered outside the school to counter-protest.

The Laramie Project is about the murder of a gay student in 1998. Understanding and tolerance are themes of the play. Westboro Baptist is known for its vehement position against gays and lesbians.

When students and faculty at MRH learned Westboro Baptist was coming to picket, they started to plan a counter-protest.

See more photos at Maplewood-Brentwood Patch Facebook.

“Karen Hall (MRH superintendent) and Kevin Grawer (MRH principal) came to me and said we need to do something to balance the hate,” MRH teacher John Capuano said. “We need to do something filled with love and tolerance and support.”

Capuano told the crowd that Hall said there were only two days to organize, and not many would come.

“I looked at her and I said, ‘Karen, this is the one time I will say this to you, you are wrong!’ This is what I’m talking about!” Capuano yelled out to the crowd.

Over 200 came to the counter-rally. Six picketers came from Westboro Baptist Church, and Maplewood police made sure they stayed in their designated area along the north side of Manchester Road, west of Martini Avenue.

The distance of the football field separated the two groups.

Katie Meyers came to the counter-protest with her MRH kindergarten son, Patrick. 

“I had to explain the hatred and the venom for him, and coming out here and seeing most of the community supports love, and there are very few haters out there,” she said. “We need to stay here and show that we will overcome.”

Al Fischer, artistic director of the Men’s Gateway Chorus came, and led the group in singing God Bless America.

He said the events on Saturday were a “confluence of art imitating life imitating art.”

“At the peak of the play, the Westboro Baptist Church people are protesting, and the people of Laramie have what they called an angel action and sing to drown them out,” he said, “so it was the perfect thing to come and try to get people to sing today.”

Ten came from Brentwood High School so show support.

“We’re here because we’re GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) and we’re all about loving everybody, so when we heard that a neighbor needed our help, we of course came,” Brentwood student Anisa Rahaman said.

She said a book at the Brentwood Library about same sex marriage, with, so, “It’s been a rough week to be an ally,” she said. “Seeing everybody here reassures me our cause is justified and we’re not alone.”

Holly Potthoff, the play’s director, said she just wanted to do a show.

“I wanted to do a show and use it as a teaching moment, with a show that I was passionate about, and the rest is just sprinkles on the cupcake,” she said. “The whole point is that my drama students and the students in the school are learning from this.”

Also in Patch:

  • Book on Gay Marriage Contested at Brentwood Library Board Meeting
  • Banned Books Week: Brentwood Library Book on Gay Marriage is Contested
  • Westboro Baptist to Picket MRH Play on Homosexuality and Tolerance
  • MRH Will Respond to Westboro Baptist Church Picket
  • Maplewood Police Chief: Westboro Baptist Church Has Right to Peaceful Protest
David Hoffman October 21, 2012 at 04:21 AM
It says a lot about your District that the superintendent thought important to address the crowd in support of the students. Good for her.
Rahab Sista October 21, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Yes it does day a lot! It says: We know what this brutish, rebellious generation wants to hear and so we will say it! And it says: we have raised a generation of self-obsessed, God-rejecting, confused rebels; and we did that with our eyes wide open - but we did it so that they wouldn't be asking uncomfortable questions about our own sin. And it says: What great sorrow you have heaped upon the heads of those children - with which they will grind on you in anger and anguish throughout eternity. Wow - way to go; you really DO hate you children - just like one of those signs says :).
Regular Guy October 21, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I'm a Maplewood resident but love the fact that reps from Brentwood High School showed up to support our high school. Classy move!
Debbie Tolstoi October 21, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I am proud to be living in this community!
Thomas Gibson October 21, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Maybe it says Judge not lest you be judged. Like a good Christian should believe.
Jill Schwieger October 21, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Rahab Sista....I believe you've missed the whole point of this. It was not about approving or disapproving of someone's personal life choices, or saying "anything goes." It was about rejecting and standing against hate......hate from those young men who tortured and killed another. For our community, it was about standing against that same hate, shown by the Westboro "group" (I refuse to call them a church) in their twisted, offensive displays, supposedly in the name of God. It was about applauding our students and educators for taking a stand against hate. Hate is an incredibly destructive evil in our world, and I'm proud of our students for making us take a look at it. For me, it was about searching out hate in my own heart, and finding some there for that Westboro group....still not sure what to do with that! Jill
mormit October 21, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Rahab, As someone who attended this event, I have to say that your mis-characterization of the MRH students cannot be further from the truth. The students attended this counter-rally to say that violence and hate toward others is rejected in this community. That is a courageous and selfless act. Furthermore, the play that the WBC does not want you or I to see is about the torture and murder of a young man simply for the way he was. Tolerance is not a high threshold. You do not have to like people for the way they are. If you do not like them, simply leave them alone. I am proud of the MRH students and our community for keeping this event positive and peaceful.
scot October 22, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Rahab sista is a Internet troll, don't let this individual ruin this great moment of community spirit. If you click on Rahab sista profile you can see thy just joined today. I assume They cannot spew their own hate with their real name.
Jackie Adams October 23, 2012 at 05:31 PM
YEah, Mom!! Exactly the point of the rally put in words people understand!! Love you and your "hate" for the Westboro group is normal. God will take care of that for you- dont fret!! LOL!!!

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