City Desk

Westboro Baptist Church Fails to “Save” American University Students

American University Protests Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church

Freshman Ty Lane joins American University students to counter-protest against Westboro Baptist Church.

“Where the fuck are they?” says one American University student, as she and her friends join the crowd of AU students gathered to counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church gathering on a cold Friday afternoon. “Are they here yet?”

They were. The problem these AU students were having, however, was that the Topeka-based church had brought far too few members to adequately address the student body at American University.

According to their press release, the WBC had arrived to “give your children [i.e., AU students] an opportunity to see what truth looks like.”

“Now they beg for some truth from the humble servants of WBC,” the group said. “They will know what their God requires of them & will not be able to plead ignorance any longer.”

To accomplish this mammoth task, the church had brought just four supporters. AU countered with between 700 and 1,200 student counter-protesters, according to university officials.

Some students didn’t even bother trying to actually see the WBC picketers, who stood across the street from the university, surrounded by protective police.

“I’ll see pictures online,” says Dakota David, a freshman at AU. She was spending her time walking around the crowd, taking note of the various counter-protest signs—some straight-forward, many tongue-in-cheek. “I think it’s awesome,” David says. “When you face something so horrible like the Westboro Baptist Church, we can all unite against that.”

AU students named their counter-protest the “Rally to Reaffirm Sanity,” basing their message off Jon Stewart’s rally last fall.

Some students copied the style of signs from the Stewart rally as well. One sign read “Good Lord, It’s Cold,” while another said “God Hates Hoyas.” Other signs were more direct. One declared “God Loves Orgasms,” and another noted that “Dude, You’re Gay If You Think Lesbians Aren’t Hot.”

Freshman Ty Lane, proudly displaying her rainbow-colored briefs to the WBC picketers, calls the counter-demonstration the largest collected student movement she’d seen since enrolling. “It’s the the biggest joining of AU that I’ve ever seen,” Lane says. “Everyone at AU has at least one gay friend.”

Upon learning Washington City Paper is willing to print curse words, Lane became more explicit.

“I think that Westboro should suck our AU gay cock,” she says. “Because gay rights are going to come around before they’re all dead... so they should deal with it.”

Kim Ketchoyian, a senior, says she's “flattered” by the WBC’s picketers. “I’m proud of my ‘faggy school’,” she says, putting air quotes around the WBC’s description of AU. “I feel like I’m at a zoo right now. They’re like the lion cubs.”

Many AU students seemed to be spending more time watching the speakers than opposing the WBC picketers. Several a capella groups performed, student leaders gave speeches praising AU’s diversity, and there were readings of poetry created by blacking out certain words in the WBC’s press release.

For her part, sophomore Patrice Ingham says she can't understand why the WBC chose to show up in the first place. “Do they really have to call us the ‘doom generation’ because we’re more accepting than them?” she says.

Others agreed.

“Nobody’s even paying attention to them anymore,” one girl mutters, while AU a cappella group On a Sensual Note sings a Lady Gaga song. “They might as well not even be here.”

Christian Kingston, who had donned an American University snuggie, spent the majority of the rally giving out “Free Consensual Hugs.” “We’re all part of the community, and we need to embrace who we are,” he explains. “By giving out these hugs... we embrace everyone as we are.”

“This is epic,” yells another student, accepting a hug from Kingston before turning back to listen to another a cappella song.

The rally ends with Nate Bronstein, AU’s student government president, leading the crowd in a chant of “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle.” (AU’s school mascot is, unsurprisingly, an eagle. Its colors are red, white, and blue, though rainbow flags appeared the norm for this event.) Then the loudspeakers blast Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” and the whole rally turns into a very chilly dance party.

Not dancing, however, were the WBC protesters. They had left 15 minutes earlier. Guess they don’t like Lady Gaga.

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  • in7551a

    Ty Lane is actually a girl.

  • phoenix

    much accolades and kudos for wbc preaching to these cretin heathen its the only life they are ever going to have

  • Mari

    Actually, the WBC members WERE in fact dancing to Lady Gaga. I was standing next to them and they seemed blissfully unaware that Lady Gaga is a huge gay rights advocate and thought they were mocking us by dancing to our music.

  • Bettina

    Early in the rally, there was a call to turn our backs to WBC, because the event was about celebrating the values and diversity of AU, not the bigots "picketing" us. In that spirit, I was happy to pay them no mind.

  • Emily Fleitz

    Yes, I saw WBC dancing, too! No one can resist Lady Gaga, lol.

  • ADW

    Have to say, this article captured the event pretty well...but every knows the best sign was the one that said "Incest Is A Sin Too."

  • DCexpat

    I'm an Eagle!! (and still paying for it, grrrrr)

  • Cam

    The westboro babtist is not a "church", it is a hate group. They are in it for the money and the press. Most of the members of this "church" are attorneys. If any other group showed up at your door, would they get away with this? No! Why do they? Any one can say they are a "church", that is not going to make you a Church! We in this country let a lot pass for "church". This is not about freedom, it is about being human. The hate is a way to make money by bringing a Lawsuit against people THEY have provoked.

  • Rick Mangus

    What I like to know is how are these WBC inbreeds getting all of this money to travel? If they are not a legitimate church, isn't time someone looked into their tax exempt status!

  • Truth Hurts

    That photo's tough to look at.

  • Well Writen

    This piece was really well written and I really enjoyed it allot! I wish we had more well-seasoned writers like this one! Keep up the good work!

    Also, the AU event rocked.

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  • Guest22

    I think it's cute people keep putting on this dinner theater. Only 4 WBC members showed up though, I wonder if they'll still get paid? Sounds like some internal conflicts taking place at the top.

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