It seemed more like a party, people bringing grills and alcohol, setting up tailgates to peacefully protest the hateful and bigoted rhetoric from the Westboro Baptist Church. The methodology of the counter protests was very successful, resulting in the church leaving their protest only about 25 minutes after it started when people started singing “Na Na Hey Hey” by Bananarama to drown out the church’s offensive comments. The church came to Loyola University to protest the college’s acceptance of its gay students as well as straying from what Westboro thinks are traditional Christian ideology, such as the college’s teaching and acceptance of evolution and individual free will.
Westboro Baptist Church members donned signs such as “Priests are liars” and saying offensive things such as how Hurricane Katrina was a warning from God to the city to change its sinning ways, and how we still have not changed and will soon face the wrath of God.
However, when faced with inflammatory statements, counter-protesters from across the city turned the event into an opportunity to celebrate their pride and individuality, instead of engaging the Westboro members directly, a strategy which is so successful and so New Orleans. One counter-protester said, “I’m here not to fight the church (Westboro Baptist) about their hurtful rhetoric; I know that I can’t change that and that God doesn’t hate me because I’m gay. I’m here to celebrate me and the other beautiful people in New Orleans.”
This sentiment of not engaging the church was felt by all who appeared. The Facebook event for the protest was littered with posts warning about repercussions of engaging WBC and its futility, people letting others know how the church tactically incites people to the point where one lash out, physically or verbally, against the church, and they will then sue for assault and suppression of their free speech.
Ultimately, the resilient people of New Orleans did exactly what they were supposed to do in this situation; change an experience centered around hate into an event to celebrate their pride as well as raise awareness for non-profits across New Orleans. The counter-protesters showed the Westboro Baptist Church that their hateful speech and ideas have no place in this city.