Recently, representatives of the Kansas based Westboro Baptist Church visited Richmond Virginia to picket outside of the Holocaust Museum, Hermitage High School and other Jewish sites around the area carrying signs and chanting “God Hates Jews” and “God will destroy you.”
In what could be described as a shinning moment for Richmond the group was met by counter-protesters at every turn, hundreds came out to voice their disapproval of the teachings of the church. As one young man so eloquently stated: “you can’t come to Richmond to spread hate and expect not to be answered”
As the group arrived at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Shockoe Bottom, they found themselves facing as many as 400 counter protesters.Executive director of the VirginiaHolocaustMuseum, Jay M. Ipson,(A Holocaust survivor) invited the members of Westboro Baptist Church inside to talk; his invitation was declined with a member of the group saying they did not come here to negotiate. Ipson later told reporters that he invited them in because if they wanted to hate him they should at least get to know him first. He went on to express his pride and gratitude to the counter protesters by telling the Richmond Times Dispatch:
“I feel like I’m 25 feet tall, this community is standing behind one another in love, not in hate.”
Counter protesters came from many walks of life including 28-year old Iraq war veteran Nathan Cox of Mechanicsville, who played rock music through a megaphone to drawn out the group. The group is known to protest at the funerals of American soldiers killed in action, Cox told reporters that he first heard of the group while still serving in Iraq.
Although the Westboro group never picketed at Virginia Commonwealth University VCU students, faculty and staff took to the campus with their own anti-hate rally carrying signs with such slogans as “God Loves All People,” and “God Hates Morons”. The VCU rally that focused on inclusiveness was also joined by several faith-based and community organizations from around Richmond. The group was also met by opposition and increased police presents when they held an anti-gay protest at HermitageHigh School.
It seems that the visit from the group has only served to give the people of Richmond a chance to stand together and speak out and their message was clear: Hate groups such as this one are not welcome.