Hate has no place at Western

Steven Barnum , Assistant News Editor



Members of the Macomb community are planning to combat hate speech from the Westboro Baptist Church.

More than 500 people are currently planning to participate in a counter-protest against the church. According to a Facebook event titled “WIU Rally For Love,” an additional 1,300 people are also interested in joining. For those looking to attend, the rally will take place 11:30 a.m. on Saturday near Macomb’s Hanson Field.

The Westboro Baptist Church made their intentions clear that they were coming to Macomb to protest an openly gay athlete on Indiana State’s football team, who comes into town to face the Leathernecks Saturday at 1 p.m. In addition to the rally, Western Illinois University President, Jack Thomas, took a strong stance against their speech. In a press release, Thomas

alluded to the group’s tendency to film counter-protesters that act violently, and then sharing those interactions with the public. Thomas encourages those in the counter- protest to represent peace, and he also warns them not to fall for the church’s publicity trap.

“Let us practice the exact opposite of this organization’s message. At Western, we value and support our LGBTQIA+ community, and as inclusive environment forall members of the University community,” Thomas wrote.

In addition to filming violent encounters to remain relevant, the group is also well organized in the courtroom.Since several of the group’s founders have backgrounds as lawyers, the Westboro Baptist Church is familiar with both their First Amendment right to protest and their First Amendment right to practice hate speech.

After originating in Topeka, Kan., the Westboro Baptist Church has protested in all 50 states. Their protests primarily speak out against homosexuality, Judaism, and fallen soldiers. The group has previously announced their support of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and more recently, they celebrated the 2016 mass shooting in an Orlando, Fla. nightclub.