For our previous coverage on the Westboro Baptist Church, see their explanation for why they are coming to Stanford,an introduction to their leader, Fred Phelps, the logic behind their message, the church’s history with the law, , a history of the counter protests Westboro Baptist Church has inspired, and Alex Katz’s photos of this morning’s protest at Stanford.Five members of the Westboro Baptist Church made it out to the protests, starting at Gunn High School, in Palo Alto. There was one man, in his forties or fifties whose name I didn’t catch (evidently Steve Drain), as well as Margie Phelps, also in her fifties, Sara Phelps, 28, Megan Phelps-Roper, (approx. 25), and Taylor, 18, who I didn’t confirm, but is presumably Taylor Drain, daughter of [Steve Drain](http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1509646/best_sources_for_understanding_rev_pg3.html), making her one of the few members in the church who are not descended from Fred Phelps. I spoke with Taylor a little bit, and she seemed less sure of herself than the older members there, and the other people seemed wary of me asking her questions.
I spoke with Megan and Sara a little bit at this event, asking Megan if it was tiring to hold up four signs at once. She said something to the effect of God gifted her with physical strength. The younger Phelpses all had iPhones, and Megan would frequently go off and talk on hers as the picket continued. I asked why they insisted on “fag” rather than, say, “faggot” in all their protests. Taylor, who is in college currently, explained to me that fag means firebrand, but more than that, it’s punchier. Sara said the same thing later. I asked Taylor how they pay for all these trips, and she explained that they work, and that her mom is a dental hygenist.
On the side of the counter-protesters at Gunn, they were mostly made up of students from other high schools. Gunn delayed their start time to 8:30, so the WBC’s activities would not be exposed to their community. Indeed, the WBC had a special song to gloat about the suicides that had taken place recently. Still, there was probably a hundred or so people there, mostly teenagers. I spoke to one fellow in a cow suit, who explained that he was dressed as Shirley Phelps.
As always, there were signs. One read “Legalize Gay,” another “God Loves Everybody, even hatemongers.” One person noted that the Phelps’ sign reading “The Lord is Coming,” “sounds dirty.” One person brought a Finnish flag. The students and others seemed pretty cheerful, and although the WBC’s time at Gunn did end with a shouting match (“God is bisexual!”), they all jubilantly chanted “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye,” as the WBC people left.
After that, they came to Stanford, and as always (again), people had signs. One was “Gay for Fred Phelps.” Some people were in drag. All in all, there were probably about 400 people there, and much more security than had been at Gunn. Stanford United held a gathering on the lawn of the Hillel, and indeed, it all seemed to be proceeding separately from the WBC, which was nestled away in the corner. Unlike at Gunn, barricades had been put up, rendering Mayfield Ave. a pedestrian-only stretch.The Stanford students seemed cheerful, with a cappella group Talisman singing, and one gentleman playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. The Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band eventually showed up, but only after the WBC had left (or tried to–three of the tires on their rented Dodge Caravan were slashed).
One of the interesting things about the WBC is that there clearly is a generational gap between the second and third. Margie and the older man were much more vitriolic, and seemed angrier, while the younger girls were more energetic and expressed their message of hating everyone and everything in a cheerful way. Sara gave me a high five when she found the right Bible passage explaining how God doesn’t love everyone (I went over and talked with her and them while they were waiting for Enterprise to bring another rental car over).
Indeed, Sara did have something of a sense of humor. When asked why the WBC didn’t withdraw from society, like say, the Amish, she scoffed at the notion, calling the Amish self-righteous. She laughed at that, but I don’t think it was funny to her for the same reasons it was funny for me.
Shortly before that, Margie had berated a crying girl for complaining about her “feelings,” and made reference to her “whorish face.” She then explained to me that our fancy Ivy League schools produced whores and thugs. It seemed to stall her momentum when I insisted we weren’t an Ivy League school, so she just settled on “fancy.”
Margie didn’t answer whether or not they were planning to file suit in response to their tires being slashed, but one would have to guess that they will. As noted earlier, the WBC has a reputation for suing anyone and everyone who crosses them.
One of the funnier moments of waiting for another car to show up was watching Taylor take coins out of her coinpurse and refill the parking meter. For some reason, that really amused me; perhaps because they were filling the meter for a car with slashed tires, a fate they say they meet quite frequently (note to car rental companies: you really shouldn’t let any of these WBC people buy the insurance).
After about 35, the WBC-ites got their new rental car and left. Meanwhile at the Hillel, students enjoyed bagels, and other breakfast foods. The counter protest was a smashing success, and Joe Gettinger, President of the Stanford Jewish Students Association seemed pleased, although he mentioned that he would like to see students stand together not “In a time of hate, but in a time of community.” As such, he was promoting an event called “Where Do We Go From Here?” on Feb. 2, at 7PM, designed to capitalize on the mobilization efforts that went into getting so many students up (at 8:00 AM!!!!), and hopefully keep the spirit of a united campus going forward. For more info on that, go to stanfordinterfaith.blogspot.com.