Austin Peay students prepare to counter 'God Hates Fags' group
Some Austin Peay State University students are gearing up today for a stand-off against members of the staunchly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).
The infamous WBC group announced on its Web site, godhatesfags.org, that it would protest the speaking engagement of Judy Shepard, the mother of the late gay-icon Matthew Shepard, on campus from 6:15 to 7 p.m. today. The group travels the country with picket signs spreading messages such as "God Hates Jews" and "Fags Can't Marry" and often protest at the funerals of soldiers.
Student organizer Joshua Lindsay said in an email that about 1,500 people are expected to hold a counter protest at 6 p.m. in the school's UC Plaza, also known as the "Free Speech Zone".
"News of our counter-demonstration has gotten around through Facebook and other Web sites, word of mouth, flyers, etc. In only a few days we've gained not only the attention of local media like the Leaf Chronicle and News Channel 4, but also for the state newspaper, the Tennessean," Peay said. "In short: This is big."
In their last protest, WBC showed up outside the Twitter office in San Francisco but were greatly outnumbered by counter-protesters with satirical signs with messages like "Where's Waldo" and "I'm tired." Students at Austin Peay hope to have the same effect on their campus.
"This is not to send a message," Lindsay said on Facebook. "This is to make it so that everyone who sees them can laugh instead of getting angry."
There's a chance the WBC members may be a no-show as they have in the past. But either way, the students are planning to join together that evening prior to hearing Judy Shepard speak at 7 p.m. in the Clement Auditorium, Lindsay said.
"If Westboro does not show up, we will simply celebrate the fact, lay down our satirical signs, and show our support for Mrs. Shepard," Lindsay said.
Click here for more information about the counter protest.