November 20, 2005

With dignity and compassion

That's how Knox College students reacted last week when Fred Phelps and his hate cult came to Galesburg. That's the "God Hates Fags" guy, only now he's moved on to attacking the military (for being taken over by fags, natch); and about two weeks ago, a Galesburg native died in Iraq, so Phelps decided to protest at his funeral last Tuesday.

Various student groups got wind of this, and there was some lively discussion as to how to counter-protest, along with warning to be very careful, since the Westboro Baptist Church is extremely litigious. (It's how they fund themselves, actually.) Then the word came from the family of Sgt. Wehry: please, no counter-protests. There was a bit of luck, because---not knowing the layout of the town---the cult applied for a protest permit in the area nearest the street address of Bethel Baptist, but that's on Academy, which is just where their church office is. The main entrance and such are all on Fremont. Nevertheless, even if they were going to be way off to the side, it seemed difficult to let this go by with no response at all.

So the members of Common Ground and the Alliance for Peaceful Action at Knox arranged an action that was, in my opinion, the most effective demonstration performed in the last three years. They went to Phelps' group's protest and... stood in front of them. That's it. They stood there with their backs to the hate group, partially blocking them from the view of funeral attendees and otherwise completely ignoring them.

I was really proud of them. They didn't let the nasty protesters and their sick message ("Thank God for dead soldiers"? Ugghh.) get to them or bring them down to that level. And their effort was much appreciated throughout the town. On the Common Ground mailing list, at least three or four people have mailed the group to thank them, and in the paper, they've gotten 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 letters to the editor thanking them, and an editorial. These students are a credit to Knox, and to the community.

"We think different problems are attacked better in different languages, and that software engineers and computer scientists should not be restricted to a single semantic arrow in their quivers." --Weiser, Demers, and Hauser, The PCR Approach to Interoperability

Posted by blahedo at 1:26am on 20 Nov 2005
Comments
Hi, I'm Steve Ma, a former Knox student and comp. sci. major who graduated in '03. I got wind of this story (and your blog) through Susannah Go ('05 grad). Thanks for posting the information on the silent protests. I am so proud of the Knox students for organizing something so effective and dignified. I know that they have touched the hearts of many. Again, thanks for posting the information! Posted by Steve Ma at 1:03pm on 20 Nov 2005

Bravo. Good show. Better than I could have done. I tend to react instinctively in such situations; greeting anger with anger.

There is, of course, a part of me that knows that adding more anger to the situation isn't going to help. And pointedly ignoring the jerks is what is going to make them feel the most frustrated and ineffective.

Kudos to Common Ground and the Alliance for Peaceful Action.

Posted by ansible at 12:40pm on 25 Nov 2005
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