The Phelps family has made it their mission to protest against gays at the most inappropriate places they can find, relying on the right to free speech to ensure they are not arrested or sent away. Their favorite place of protest has always been military funerals, where they declare that soldiers die because of the country’s tolerance of homosexuals.
But this time, in Kansas, a town fought back, blocking all access to the funeral and outshouting the Phelps group until they gave up and headed home.
By 9 a.m., an hour before the funeral of Army Cpl. Jacob R. Carver, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people, many of them waving American flags, lined nearly a half-mile of the street in front of the church, making sure Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church/family congregation were crowded out, peacefully kept far from shouting distance of the funeral.
“This soldier died so (Phelps) could do what he does, as stupid as that is,” said Steve Nothnagel of Harrisonville as he looked at the turnout. “I’m so proud of what is happening here today. This is a community coming together. I know it’s not just Harrisonville; they’re coming from all over.”
The call had gone out by word of mouth and Facebook: Come to Harrisonville, line the streets. Let’s protect this family on this saddest of days.
Not long ago, the same strategy against Phelps was pulled off in Weston. As one woman that day said: “We’re like any small town. We fight a little between ourselves. But today, we’re all together.”
By the time the Phelps clan rolled into Harrisonville, the only spot open to them was next to a Casey’s Store nearly a third of a mile from the church.
The seven protesters got out of their van and waved their signs and ranted their slogans that soldiers’ deaths were God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Opponents drowned them out with a rousing rendition of “God Bless America” and chants of “USA! USA!” and “Go home! Go home!”
“We can’t stop them, but we can be louder,” a man said.
After a near skirmish between the two groups, the Topeka group bailed before the funeral procession passed.