Hanging Out With the Westboro Baptist Church While It Summer Vacays in Dallas
There's a certain way of dealing with that kid at school who's begging attention, but we're going to ignore that wisdom and tell you what happened today as the Westboro Baptist Church started its summer vacation. Though, spoiler: More than 100 counter-protested the hate parade, meaning the had the Phelps clan of 17 -- three adults and 14 kids (!) -- outnumbered. Danny got plenty of photos -- two more follow, and a slide show's on the way -- though a personal favorite among the counter-protesters' signs read, "If God hates me, why haven't I been mauled by a bear by now --2 Kings 2:23-24." And, while the counter-protesters sang Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," the Dallas Holocaust Museum offered free admission and free drinks.
Not much happened. But it certainly wasn't boring.
"We love the support." said Alice Murray, the downtown museum's CEO. "But we'd rather not respond to [the WBC] and give them any kind of credibility."
As one spectator remarked outside of the museum, "I don't get why they're trampling the flag. It represents their right to protest." Also representing that right were plenty of Dallas police officers maintaining order, and escorting the church picketers from and to their cars. Not sure how necessary they were -- it was pretty tame overall. Easily the best moment was when the counter-protesters chanted: "Bring the cameras here!" and the handful of cameramen and photographers turned away from Fred Phelps's folk.
Before the protests began, I spoke on the phone to Abigail Phelps and asked if there was any particular reason for their return to Dallas. "Every once and a while we like to take a vacation. Don't you?" Well, sure, but mine usually involve less picketing and more pool-side scotch.
A lot of people wanted me to ask them if there's anybody God doesn't hate besides them.
"Yes, God doesn't hate people that follow his law," she said. I asked if there was anyone in particular. She hung up the phone.
Later, at the Jewish Community Center, it was the same story, and the community leaders there were equally bored. "We got a camp and a preschool here," remarked Allan Shor, the head volunteer organizer at the JCC. "But we got the kids in the back so they won't be seeing anything. Let em' move on."
Even the head of the local Anti-Defamation League, Mark Briskman, was unimpressed. He seemed more intrigued with the counter-protesters, one of whom at the time was yelling at the WBC: "It's O.K people! Everybody poops!" I looked at her sign and, yup, it was the same message. He told Unfair Park that when the church was here last January, "Nobody else was here. I think Facebook is mostly behind this."
Coming from the Anti-Defamation League his words were pretty telling: "We've been following these people for 15 years. There's nor real substance behind them." Yeah. It's kinda hard to take people seriously who don't take themselves seriously.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.