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Students ‘Stand with Sam’ against Westboro Baptist

A student-organized counterprotest to the infamous church group's demonstration drew thousands.

Tyler Swank marches with students in support of Michael Sam on Saturday. The One Mizzou, One Wall event was organized to support Sam in the face of picketing from the Westboro Baptist Church.

Michael Cali /Senior Staff Photographer

Missouri Students Associate President Mason Schura hands out "Stand with Sam" pins to students at the One Wall, One Mizzou Rally on Saturday. The wall stretched from from the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road to the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Tiger Avenue.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Luke Phelps-Roper, 11, holds a sign during the Westboro Baptist picket Saturday on Stadium Boulevard. There were many children participating in the picketing.

Michael Cali /Senior Staff Photographer

Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church pickets in front of Mizzou Athletic Training Complex on Saturday. The church protested Michael Sam coming out.

Michael Cali /Senior Staff Photographer

Betty Phelps of Topeka, Kan., protests on Saturday, Feb. 15 along Stadium Boulevard in front of the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex in Columbia, Mo. Phelps is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. The church was opposing the university's support of Michael Sam's recent announcement.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Isaiah Phelps drags an American flag as he protests on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road in Columbia, Mo. Phelps is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. The church was opposing the university's support of Michael Sam.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Barbara Hirsch is asked to leave the area of Westboro Baptist Church's protest by a Missouri State Trooper. Police separated the two protest groups across Providence Road.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore Mallory Stevens displays a Mizzou Pride shirt Saturday on Stadium Boulevard. An estimated 2,000 students and community members stood in support of Sam.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Drivers react to the Westboro Baptist Church's protests Saturday at the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road.

Mike Krebs/Senior Staff Photographer

Feb. 15, 2014

MU students and Columbia residents formed a line half a mile long between Stadium Boulevard and Tiger Avenue on Saturday in response to a protest by members of Westboro Baptist Church.

The church brought around a dozen members to voice opposition to the coming out of former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

The approximately 2,000 counterprotesters in attendance made clear the WBC's message was not welcome. The event, named “Stand with Sam,” asked participants to stand in a line in support of Sam.

The event was organized by sophomores Alix Carruth and Kelaney Lakers.

“Just because they have the right, doesn’t mean I want it on my campus,” Carruth said in reference to Westboro Baptist Church’s protest.

Missouri Students Association President Mason Schara led attendees in singing Missouri’s alma mater and handed out rainbow buttons stamped with the words “Stand with Sam.”

Schara said that once Carruth and Lakers created the event Sunday on Facebook, MSA threw its support behind it.

“When someone targets a student in the way Westboro Baptist did, I expect nothing different than this,” Schara said. “We are such a progressive university, compared to what we used to be like.”

Westboro’s members said the opposition was nothing unusual, especially in a college town.

“Most young people nowadays don’t have a lot of Bible upbringing,” said Betty Phelps, toting signs reading “Fags are violent” and “2 gay rights: AIDS and hell.”

She sang along to dubbed-over pop songs that decried “sins” like homosexuality and adultery. One aimed at Sam — written to the tune of The Beatles’ “Get Back” — told him to “Get back/Get back/Into the closet where you belong.”

“Pretty cool songs, right?” said Fred Phelps Jr., holding two more signs reading “Fags doom nations” and “America is doomed.”

He said his contingent focused on Columbia because of what he claimed were Sam’s misdeeds.

“The national and international spotlight is on this town in one of the most evil states in the United States of America,” he said. “It’s disgusting and unnatural.”

Counterprotesters and onlookers gawked at the provocative signs, and passing motorists hollered unpleasantries and took photos with cell phones. MU police restricted pedestrians from Westboro’s assigned street corner to diffuse any conflict.

MU Police Department spokesman Brian Weimer said the force would station extra officers in front of the stadium park throughout the day due to the increased crowds. The protest coincided with the beginning of Missouri’s men's basketball game against Tennessee.

The crowd dissipated as the game time neared and the 16-degree wind chill took its toll. Dr. Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs, encouraged participants to stay warm and helped Carruth and Lakers maintain control.

“You talk about the values of this institution, and here’s your proof,” Scroggs said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

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Article comments

Feb. 16, 2014 at 8:28 a.m.

Ray: Wonderful to see they have such respect for our flag, by letting it drag on the ground. Site our soldiers, yet disrespect our flag.

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