“Hey Hey Ho Ho, homophobia has got to go!”
The phrase was chanted by gay-rights supporters as they waited for the Westboro Baptist Church members’ arrival Oct. 16 to protest against San Diego High School, which is known for openly accepting gay and lesbian students.
While they waited for Westboro church members to arrive, Chris Conyers, a member of City’s Fellowship Association of Gay Students (FAGS), used a megaphone to tell the crowd “not to antagonize (the gay protestors), to make it peaceful and positive.” The FAGS group planned the counterprotest when it came to their attention that the Westboro group would protest at San Diego High.
A ring of eight police officers protected the six members of the church, ranging from the father, Sam Phelps-Roper, to his youngest daughter, 5-year-old Mariah, who arrived at the corner Ash Street and Park Boulevard at 2 p.m., near the time the high school students leave school for the day.
The group came out with their message against gays, military, Jews, Americans and President Barack Obama, who they believe to be the anti-Christ.
“The main reason we are here is because this nation is raising rebellious brats, we are here speaking the message of truth. Parents are raising them for the devil, a generation of evil,” Jennifer Phelps-Roper, Westboro Baptist member, said.
When 12-year-old Jonah, a young member of the Westboro Baptist Church, was asked why he believes Obama is the anti-Christ he said, “because momma said so.”
“Every single person that gets this message are bound by the standards of God,” Shirley Phelps-Roper, another Westboro Baptist member, said. “When he sends people onto the streets posting the messages, that’s your warning.”
Stacey Stevenson, a concerned parent waiting for her ninth-grade child to come out of class, said that the protest will teach the students “a life lesson.”
“I’m concerned that they are protesting at a high school, but this is America, (and) I appreciate the freedom to protest. It’s unfortunate that we have people that hate certain groups” Stevenson said. “I don’t understand why they are targeting minors, but our kids will learn that our country is democratic and that everybody has a voice.”
San Diego High students came out of classes at 2:30 p.m. and they were faced with the protestors from both positions.
Shirley directly targeted Jewish high school student Kyle Cochram and his friends, who were wearing yarmulkes. She chanted “domeheads go to hell,” as the students walked by.
In response to her comment, Cochram said he what Westboro church members are doing “is wrong…everyone has free will (and) everyone has freedom to do and wear what they want.”
FAGS president Michael Mitchell said he and the club came out to support the neighboring school and to let students know “it’s okay to live the way they want.”
Mitchell said FAGS invited the Hillcrest Gay, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals Center (GLBT), the North Park Community and other high schools in the county to come out in support of San Diego High students.
Other groups that came out in support were the Patriot God Riders, City’s Visionary Feminists Group and San Diego City Commissioner Nicole M. Ramirez.
“When it comes to hate this is the greatest demonstration ever in San Diego,” Ramirez said. “For the students to be participating in this protest is sending a message that in the future this generation is not going to support hate.”
Sophia Keller, a member of City College’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, said that the Bible does talk about homosexuality being a sin but she said that at the end of the day “is all about having a relationship with God.”
“Society is going to think that all Christians are like that, that’s what breaks my heart,” said Keller. “I hope that the majority of real believers will be like ‘that’s not right.’ We are called to love, not to judge.”