in orlando, people dressed as angels block homophobic protestors
Volunteers sported giant wings and chanted 'Orlando Strong!' at Pulse victims' funerals to drown out toxic hate speech by Westboro Baptist Church protesters.
The Westboro Baptist Church is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America." Ding ding, spot on. The Kansas-based religious extremist ministry chiefly focuses on picketing the funerals of LGBT people and American soldiers (under the "logic" that God is punishing the nation for its tolerance of LGBT people) with large signs bearing inflammatory slogans like "Thank God for AIDS," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," and the group's most recognizable message, "God Hates Fags."
So it was infuriating when WBC members showed up to protest funeral proceedings of Pulse nightclub shooting victims this weekend in Orlando. But this time, love truly did overpower hate: the small contingent of WBC homophobes was drowned out by a chorus of hundreds chanting, "Orlando Strong!", and its vile signs were blocked from view by the large, linen wings of volunteers dressed as angels.
According to ABC News, the costumes were created by the Orlando Shakespeare Company and Angel Action Network—an organization founded in 1999 in Wyoming, when WBC members protested the widely publicized memorial service for Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was kidnapped, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die. Upon hearing that the WBC would return to Wyoming to protest the homicide's trial, Colorado resident Romaine Patterson organized a group of counter demonstrators who wore angel costumes with 10-feet-wide, seven-feet-tall wingspans to block WBC founder Fred Phelps' hate speech from view.
Along with other factors, Shepard's murder has helped lead to the passage of national, bi-partisan hate crime legislation. Yet it took a full decade to enact; the Matthew Shepard Act was finally signed into law by Barack Obama in 2009, following attempts by conservatives to kill the bill (George W. Bush threatened to veto the measure) or downplay the motivations of Shepard's death (North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx called its hate crime label "a hoax"). And as Orlando mourns its losses, the call for national, bi-partisan, immediate gun control legislation bears repeating.
Text Emily Manning