by Kendall Harris / Staff Writer
The Kansas-based religious group Westboro Baptist Church came to Lakewood in protest of anti-gay and anti-bible lifestyles, March 2 and 3. They were met by counter-protesters coming from the Lakewood and Long Beach area. Sunday morning the group picketed three churches, St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Woodruff, First United Methodist Church on Harvey way and Bellflower, and St. Pancratius Catholic Church off of Downey Avenue.
Around 10, Westboro members picketed St. Timothy bearing anti-gay rhetoric signs saying, “God hates fags” “1 man 1 woman 4 life.” Westboro stated to the churches on their website, “Show the people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church the narrow path to salvation if only they will put away their sins and obey.” At both sites Westboro encountered counter-protesters. The protesters against Westboro group, which were about 25-30 people, were wearing rainbow clothing and had signs bearing messages like, “God doesn’t hate. God loves” “God is love.”
Former LBCC student Mariah Csepanyi, 28, said, “Westboro Baptist Church is coming to our neighborhood. If their plan was to make a mockery of our area then I plan on being there every step of the way to make a mockery of them.” Mariah attended both protests dressed with devil horns, carrying signs that said, “I’m right there with you WBC” and “Still have your seats warm WBC.”
Both churches still conducted services and tried to maintain a calm crowd. The protests lasted about 30 minutes and remained peaceful the duration of the protest.
Monday, Westboro protested from 7:15-7:30am at Lakewood High School, on the corner of Bellflower Blvd and Centralia Avenue. Westboro said they were there to protest that teachers and parents are not instructing youth in biblical teachings which would help them in the world today.
The high school was notified by Westboro a month in advance that they would be picketing the area. Lakewood High School let parents, employees and students know of the event on the school website and urge that they “ignore and avoid the displayed signage and comments you might hear from Westboro.” More than 25 counter-protesters rallied at the high school.
Counter-protester and Lakewood High School alumnus, Hector Ramirez, 26, said, “I think at some point they need to realize that people will want to take a stand toward their hate-filled preaching. I understand that it’s their right to say whatever they would like, but when they start to come after our children, there is only so much we can take.”
Campus security, SWAT teams and school safety were called in case anything were to break out, but the protests and picketing ended peacefully.