The Westboro Baptist Church announced in a press release that they planned to travel to Maple Grove to picket two clinics and a high school because they support transgender rights. Representatives from the high school and clinics weren’t aware of any specific reason for the protest.
The Osseo School District spokesperson said they asked the school to resist confrontations with the group. “We’ve encouraged our students and family to refrain from engaging with the demonstrators, including on social media.”
Five members of the church started their protest on the corner of Maple Grove Parkway and Hospital Drive, outside of the North Memorial Clinics and Hospital, and played covers of popular songs replaced with the lyrics of their own message on a portable speaker. They mostly stood at the location holding signs, but one was singing loudly to the music.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member and former spokesperson for Westboro, said that they chose to picket these locations because “they teach here that you can change what God has done.”
Rebecca Phelps-Roper added that North Memorial “caters to the transgender rebellion.”
Three plain clothes officers observed the groups from a distance. “We’re going to monitor the situation. There isn’t a need for a robust police presence unless people don’t act peaceful,” said Capt. Adam Lindquist from the Maple Grove Police Department prior to the demonstration.
Westboro was promptly met with forceful honks and drivers rolling down their windows to shout things like “fuck off” and “you need help”. A passenger in one vehicle saw the protest and cheered them on, but then quickly made a realization and yelled “no I don’t like you,” then cheered on the counter-protest.
There were a couple thumbs up from drivers, but it wasn’t clear if those were in support for Westboro, or the man with a beer sign counter-protesting in front of them.
After about a half hour, a grey van pulled up to the site and briefly blocked traffic as they loaded into the vehicle. While drivers honked at them to move, one of them yelled “you suck at everything.”
Church members then traveled to the corner of 99th Avenue North and Fernbrook Lane North, outside of the University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics, but left ahead of schedule and walked to the Maple Grove High School. Fifty counter-protesters greeted them with rainbow signs, clothing, and other colorful props.
Westboro protested at the high school for twenty minutes and left around 1:00, before classes let out for the day, and a full hour ahead of the time announced.
Although there was no one affiliated with the Westboro Baptist Church present when classes were dismissed, students gathered outside the school to rally for equality, and eventually overtook both sides of the street. Counter-protesters remained until around 2:30pm and worked to gain honks of support from passing drivers.
A couple students held up a traditional white sheet, along with a sign that said “God loves her trans kids,” representing an angel wing to block the hate speech from a man that used the opportunity to protest abortion.
Supporters of transgender rights joined to counter-protest Westboro and rally with the students, “if you’re a good human being and you actually care about others, this is not how you show it,” said Derrick Johnson in response to the church’s protest of the clinics and school.
Police reported that no arrests were made, though a vehicle was rear-ended by a truck while a passenger asked demonstrators if Westboro had failed to show.
Mark Wasson contributed to this story.
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Westboro Baptist Church protesting in Maple Grove
Posted by The Civic Observer on Wednesday, June 7,
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Westboro Baptist Church Protest in Maple Grove
Posted by The Civic Observer on Wednesday, June 7, 2017