Tuesday, February 24, 2009

3 vs. 200

Westboro: "Counterprotest of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting a memorial service for a victim of flight 3407."

I live in Buffalo, the Memorial of one of the crash victims was happening very near my apartment. The Westboro Baptists decided to protest it. A wide range of groups came to counterprotest with white flags, sheets, and angel wings to block the visibility of the WB's. These are pictures I took.


At 2:23 PM, February 24, 2009, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Isn't attempting to block the visibility of protesters, regardless of the validity or seemliness of their protest, a form of censorship that may infringe upon First Amendment rights? Also, doesn't having 200 counter-protesters showing up risk bringing further publicity value to the 3 Westboro Baptist Church protesters who might otherwise have been largely ignored by the public and/or media? Might, in terms of numbers of protesters, does not make right, 200 counterprotesting Klansmen vs. 3 anti-racist civil rights protesters being just one hypothetical, if not quite real. . . example.

At 12:10 PM, February 25, 2009, Blogger James Andrix said...

I had similar concerns. For my own interest in fringe religions, I'd have preferred the two protests to go on side by side. I was hoping to get a chance to talk to some of them, but it they left after only a few moments.

I think the primary goal of the counter-protesters was to spare the mourners from having to see anyone celebrating the death of their loved ones, and I think that was accomplished. The call to action that I saw suggested a 'white wall' between the baptists and the services.

The Media was a secondary concern, and the Westboro Baptists are pretty good at attracting media attention all on their own.

In the US the first amendment is only a prohibition on government. There is however some social and legal precedent for exempting 'fighting words' intended to provoke violence. (It has been reported that the Westboro Baptists fund their activities by suing people who assault them.)

Funerals are also a special social space. I think most would be willing to trade freedom of speech in that arena in order to get a society in which anyone can mourn their loved ones in peace, no matter how awful someone else thinks they are.

The Patriot Guard Riders use their motorcycles to drown out the sound of protesters at the funerals of soldiers.
This is a form of expression where the objective is simply to be louder than the opposition.
Similarly this counter protest in Buffalo visually overwhelmed the 3 protesters.
I think classing 'loud' expression as censorship of other expression is a very dicey road.

Sometimes Right makes Right.

At 8:23 PM, April 07, 2009, Blogger Robin Edgar said...


I'm still working on it myself. . .

"For my own interest in fringe religions, I'd have preferred the two protests to go on side by side."

Aren't you still a member of *the* "tiny, declining, *fringe* religion" James? ;-)

"I was hoping to get a chance to talk to some of them, but it they left after only a few moments."

That's interesting. Any idea why they did not stick around. A protest that only lasts a few moments is barely a protest at all.

At 8:26 PM, April 07, 2009, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Forgot the ever so Unitarian question mark. You know where it goes. BTW It is only just now that I saw your response as a result of coming back here to make a link in my comments on ChaliceChick's blog post about her upcoming participation in a similar anti-WBC counter-protest.

At 10:56 PM, April 07, 2009, Blogger James Andrix said...

Not an active UU by any means, I sleep in on sundays. :-)

Well, This picture has all 3 of the westboro baptists and their signs in it. (and I think two police cars behind the crowd.) They really weren't getting any message out.

I believe they claimed safety concerns, which does make sense. It was a very tight crowd. I got bumped at least once, (by a police officer in fact,) and I wasn't the center of attention.

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At 6:15 AM, December 30, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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