Students counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church at Georgetown

By Rachel Friedman

Whitman students protest WBC’s bigotry at Georgetown. Photo courtesy of Joseph Grunwald.

Students took part in a counter-protest against Westboro Baptist Church picketers at Georgetown University Monday, standing against the group’s extreme views on the LGBT community.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a religious group with strong views against war, LGBT rights and other religions. Although the church is based in Kansas, members travel around the country, picketing with signs that depict messages such as “God Hates Catholics” and “God Hates F**s.”

The group organized a demonstration at Georgetown University, which is a Catholic and Jesuit institution, before moving their protest to outside the White House later that evening. In a press release, the WBC condemned Georgetown students for their LGBT tolerance and alleged a campus-wide attitude of godlessness, including “fornication, sorceries, idolatry, and self worship.”

About 15 Whitman students attended the counter-protest at the university, along with hundreds of Georgetown students.

“Whitman’s role was to show our support for our community and the LGBT community in particular,” junior Selvi Ulusan said.

In 2009, the WBC picketed Whitman in response to a common belief that Walt Whitman was said to be gay. Similar to the counter-protest on Monday, Whitman students and staff gathered outside the school to face the picketers and to display signs of LGBT appreciation and awareness.

Although members of the WBC were significantly outnumbered by counter-protesters at Georgetown, the picketers intensely boasted their anti-gay viewpoints with “appalling signs,” Ulusan said.

However, the counter-protest remained united and peaceful and focused on spreading messages of love, not hate, junior Joseph Grunwald said.

“It was very positive and non-violent,” Grunwald said. “All the students both from Whitman and Georgetown maintained discipline and composure when facing such horrible hate speech.”

With the positive attitude and communal encouragement, Whitman students joined the Georgetown community to reach a common goal—to speak out for mutual respect.

“The goal was to stand together against ignorance, unify ourselves and spread love to one another,” Ulusan said. “And that’s what happened.”