Westboro Picket Line Draws Police, Ire, Fire, Brimstone

The group says America is "hurtling toward destruction."

Westboro Baptist Church picketers on Main Street across from El Segundo High School.
Westboro Baptist Church picketers on Main Street across from El Segundo High School.
They came, they picketed, they presented their opinions, they left.

That sums up much of what happened Monday morning when the Westboro Baptist Church arrived around 7 a.m. to hoist their opinionated signs across the street from El Segundo High School on Main Street.

The Kansas-based WBC has gained attention in recent years for picketing military funerals and group members' public use of anti-gay and anti-Semitic language, according to the Huffington Post. Their latest mission brought them to the West Coast to picket at the Golden Globe awards Sunday. During the weekend, they picketed several Glendale churches to spread their message.

Nearly 10 members of the group picketed in El Segundo, said Lt. Jaime Bermudez of the El Segundo Police Department, who said the department was ready for any potential fallout.

Westboro selected El Segundo High School as their target because it is the closest high school to Los Angeles International Airport, where group members were headed to catch a flight home, Isaac Hockenbarger told the Daily Breeze.

Bermudez told Patch word of the planned picket had circulated among El Segundo High School students weeks in advance of the protest, alerting police to the activity.

From a law enforcement perspective, he said the picketing went well, with Westboro and counter-picketers getting their messages out peacefully.

Westboro members held signs protesting same-sex marriage, homosexuality and the Jewish homeland Israel, according to the Daily Breeze.

Hockenbarger told reporter Larry Altman that high school students are "beyond full of themselves," taking aim at the way high schoolers act, dress and present themselves. He called them "downright filthy" and said they think they are the smartest things to have touched the earth. 

Emily Lathbury, 17, of Manhattan Beach, showed up along with others to denounce and dismiss Westboro's message. As a lesbian, she said she wanted to stand for what's right by showing up to voice her displeasure with Westboro's messages.

According to its website, Westboro conducts “peaceful demonstrations opposing the fag lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth.” 

The website post for Monday's picket in El Segundo read, “These self-serving beasts you call children desperately need some truth spoken to them.”

Bermudez said 10-15 counter demonstrators showed up, many just before Westboro picketers left.

Prior to the demonstration Monday, El Segundo High School students took to Facebook to suggest their method of counter-protest, planning not to give Westboro any attention by feeding them via picketing and giving them the opportunity for more media attention.

Read Larry Altman's full report with video of Hockenbarger and Lathbury on the Daily Breeze here.

The Huffington Post report on the group's activities leading up to the Golden Globes is here.


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