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Protest, counter-protest in SCV

Diverse group protests Westboro Baptist Church picketing SCV churches

Posted: February 22, 2015 10:24 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2015 10:24 p.m.
Counter-protesters demonstrate against members of the Westboro Baptist Church in front of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Orchard Village Road in Newhall Sunday. The controversial Kansas-based congregation visited the Santa Clarita Valley to picket five local churches. Signal photo by Austin Dave Counter-protesters demonstrate against members of the Westboro Baptist Church in front of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Orchard Village Road in Newhall Sunday. The controversial Kansas-based congregation visited the Santa Clarita Valley to picket five local churches. Signal photo by Austin Dave
Counter-protesters demonstrate against members of the Westboro Baptist Church in front of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Orchard Village Road in Newhall Sunday. The controversial Kansas-based congregation visited the Santa Clarita Valley to picket five local churches. Signal photo by Austin Dave
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More than 200 people representing a variety of ideologies — pacifists, atheists, Christians, bikers and Satanists — protested visiting Westboro Baptist Church members Sunday morning as the Kansas parishioners carried out their promise to protest five churches in the Santa Clarita Valley.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, on the sidewalks near Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church on Copper Hill Drive, six Westboro parishioners sang hymns loudly, as they waved signs denouncing homosexuality.

Twenty feet away, sharing the sidewalk with them, were more than 200 people — young and old, many of them students — who protested the protesters as Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s deputies stood between the two groups.

“It’s good so far — we’re peaceful. They’ve stayed totally to themselves,” said Travis Stubbe, spokesman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Santa Clarita Valley, as he stood inside a shoulder-to-shoulder cluster of “counter-protesters.”

The brief interaction between the two groups was cordial, said counter-protester Kelly Greaney. “They walked through us and greeted us with ‘Good morning’ this morning,” she said.

At 8:30 a.m., the Westboro group walked west on Copper Hill Drive to Grace Baptist Church where counter-protesters had already assembled to greet them.

“Good morning, good morning,” said one Westboro woman holding two signs as she walked by the large vocal group of counter-protesters, inside a protected lane of sheriff’s deputies.

Not allowed on the roadway and not allowed on the drying grass of church property, the counter-protesters rallied behind the same songs, above the hymns of the visiting parishioners. The 200 mixed voices joined in a loud, rousing rendition of the Twisted Sister song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

“As much as I hate for them to come to our community, in a way it has galvanized so many people from so many groups,” said counter-protest organizer David BarLavi.

“The way we’ve come together is great,” he said.

Shortly after 9 a.m., local sheriff’s deputies momentarily halted traffic on Copper Hill to allow the Westboro parishioners to cross the street as they made their way to the next targeted church.

The Westboro parishioners stayed with their plan to demonstrate St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Santa Clarita United Methodist Church and The Church on the Way.

Counter-protester Chad Kampbell described the display by both picketing camps at St. Stephen’s as: “jovial and upbeat, with everyone friendly and happy.”

At the Methodist church, parishioners taking part in a blood drive shouted “Don’t hate, donate!” and then sang “Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye” as protesters left the church for fifth and final target: the Church on the Way on Cinema Drive.

With the rain coming down heavy at times, military flag bearers stood at attention on the Cinema Drive sidewalk as counter-protesters filled in the spaces around the them.

Counter-protesters closed out the day singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and an encore of “Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., the Westboro church members quietly put their signs in the trunk of their cars and left Cinema Drive, their protest of SCV churches complete.

Westboro spokesman Steve Drain told The Signal earlier in the week that his group was coming to Los Angeles County to protest the “liberal media” in Los Angeles and the Oscars, but while “passing through” they will stop at Santa Clarita Valley churches.

“That way we get a two-fer,” he said.

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