MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — “Love trumps hate,” was the message counter-protesters sent to members of Westboro Baptist Church in Maple Grove Wednesday afternoon.
Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) out of Wichita, Kansas, which is mostly famous for its protests outside funerals of fallen soldiers and for protesting LGBTQ+ rights, has made its way up to the Twin Cities.
A group of eight to ten people traveled ten hours to picket outside of North Memorial – Maple Grove, The University of Minnesota Health – Maple Grove, and Maple Grove High School.
The church, which has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, targeted the suburban city for the transgender clinic at North Memorial.
“And so, Lord willing, WBC will earnestly preach to remind those who seek to cloak their rebellion and idolatry (the love of $$) in smooth health care words, that the LORD God who framed you and who set the foundations of the world has standards, and He expects obedience to them. That includes you, Arrogant Aaron Doctor and you, Puffed-Up Patricia Nurse,” the church wrote in a press release.
The church also said it planned to “bring the gospel of peace to the children of Maple Grove High School, where every teacher, parent, leader and preacher has refused to do their duty to raise these children God has given them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
According to City Pages, the church has scheduled events in the Twin Cities twice before, a protest during the aftermath of the 35W bridge collapse and at the high school in Hastings, Minnesota.
The family owned church, whose patriarch Fred Phelps Sr. died in 2014, has remained largely under the radar since his death.
However, the small group made its way to all three locations quietly protesting for 15 to 30 minutes. They played pop music with altered lyrics to coincide with their message and held up signs that read, “God Hates F-gs,” “Tranny sin dooms nations,” and “God hates enablers.”
But, the group was met with dozens of individuals and their families who came out to support the high school, kids, and to condemn the message of the church. Counter-protesters showed up with signs, flags, glittery stickers, and one individual played the violin.
Shortly after, a van bearing Minnesota license plates arrived to pick them up from the school around 1:00 p.m., 45 minutes ahead of schedule. As the group left, counter-protesters began to sing “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”
One young girl told Alpha News that she came out because she had dealt with the group before. “My best friend passed away in the Manchester bombings and they wanted to protest the funerals and they said it was a good thing that those bombings happened. I’m also from South Carolina, I was there when they were protesting the Charleston church shooting.”
“I want to let Westboro Baptist Church know that what you’re doing isn’t right,” Mike, an Army Veteran from Coon Rapid told Alpha News. “They’re not just protesting veterans, but soldiers dying in the war, soldiers fighting for their freedoms. They protest to get attention.”
“They’re a cult.” Howard Dotson, a Presbyterian minister told Alpha News. “Westboro Baptist Church is not a church. They don’t speak for Christianity.”
“We want every single student and community member having equal intrinsic value,” Osseo Assistant Superintendent Astein Osei told Alpha News.
Osei told Alpha News that the school and district, which had heightened security and parking lots blocked off and monitored, worked together with the Maple Grove Police Department to make sure everyone involved was safe. Several plainclothes officers could be seen mulling around the event.
Counter-protesters, who received approval from commuters passing by, planned to stay until the end of the school day to cheer on students as they left.