Westboro Counter-Protesters Urged To Keep Cool

Organizers Fear Violence Could Spark Lawsuits

Organizers of a Westboro Baptist Church counter-protest, are urging participants to remain peaceful, or risk funding the church’s anti-gay, anti-Semitic message.

The church, infamous for picketing soldier’s funerals all over the country, plans to stage 15 protests in Denver and Boulder schools, community centers and Jewish temples. The protests will start Thursday at Boulder High School.

Kameron Martinez is the founder of a 4,000-member Facebook group organizing counter-protests at each site Westboro plans to visit.

“Do not engage with Westboro Baptist Church,” Martinez told counter-protesters in a video message posted to the Facebook page. “I’m telling you now, it will not be worth it.”

Martinez said Westboro members are known for provoking counter-protesters, sometimes into violence, and later filing lawsuits.

“If you get into trouble with these people, that’s exactly what they want,” said Martinez.

An Anti-Defamation League report found that many Westboro activists are lawyers, well-versed in their first amendment rights. According to the report, the church “may bait groups to take action against them which, in turn, could result in the group bringing lawsuits against towns that they believe did not offer them adequate protection.”

“They offend people 100 percent within their rights under the First Amendment and they know their rights very well,” said Martinez.

ACLU of Boulder Chairman Judd Golden said counter-protesters should respect the group’s right to free speech, even if they disagree with their message.

“The Westboro Baptist Church is entitled to the same rights as any other group to peacefully engage in protest,” said Golden.

Despite their inflammatory language, the Anti-Defamation League found no record of the group ever engaging in physical violence.

According to the report, “The WBC has a ‘loud bark.’”

“It’s hard to take,” said Golden, “but that’s the price we pay to live in a free country that has a First Amendment.”

The Westboro Baptist Church has been involved in a number of lawsuits. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear a slander lawsuit involving the church and the father of a fallen Pennsylvania Marine. The lawsuit alleges that the group engaged in slander outside of the Marine’s funeral.