Outnumbered and irrelevant

Supporters of 2019 Rose Queen drown out Westboro Baptist Church picketers with messages of love

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/28/2019

Westboro Baptist Church protesters arrived in Pasadena with a whimper Monday morning. 

A half-dozen or so members of the anti-gay, anti-Semitic, Kansas-based church picketed on the sidewalk outside Pasadena’s Sequoyah High School, located on the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church campus on Orange Grove Boulevard.

On its website, Westboro said they were targeting Sequoyah because the 2019 Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times on New Year’s Eve coming out as bisexual. The column also noted that she is Jewish and a senior at Sequoyah.

The Westboro picketers, including Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of the late church founder Fred Phelps, were outnumbered by dozens of counter-protesters in several clusters on and around the campus and in the Rose Bowl parking lot about a mile down the road.

“Today we met hate and venom with love and compassion,” Jessica Gable, communications coordinator at Neighborhood Church, told the Pasadena Weekly. “Members of our community, as well as the Pasadena community at large, surrounded the Sequoyah students with support and messages of kindness. We are thrilled at the triumph of inclusion that we witnessed today.”

Several Pasadena police officers and private security were on the scene, as was Siskel, who was surrounded by supporters. Westboro picketers held signs with offensive — and mostly irrelevant — slogans, such as “God sent the shooter” and “God hates Christ-rejecting, apostate Jews.”

Siskel’s supporters held up rainbow banners and signs with slogans such as “Love > Hate,” “I love my trans son,” “Love lives here,” “My God loves all and so do we” and “Blessed to be LGBT,” among many others.

On Sunday, Neighborhood Church Social Justice and Inclusion staff and LGBTQ community organizers hosted a peace training and poster-making workshop. The fruits of their labor were posted around the campus and written in chalk on the sidewalk, featuring messages of love and acceptance.

The protest lasted less than half an hour and ended without incident. Last week, Neighborhood Church officials said they were discouraging people from engaging with Westboro protesters.