Olympia drowns out Westboro with counter protests

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 11:14 AM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church were outnumbered in Olympia Thursday morning.

The ill-famed hate group from Kansas protested Washington's gay marriage law and Referendum 74, holding offensive signs outside the state Capitol building, the Thurston County Auditor's Office and Olympia High School.

But Westboro was met by a counter protest at most every location they targeted.

While about a half-dozen Westboro picketers marched across the street from Olympia High School, a counter-protest nearing 1,000 people, including hundreds of students and staff, sang songs and made speeches in front of the school. Speeches about unity and love were broadcast over loudspeakers.

“It wasn’t a protest, I don’t think it was a rally, just a celebration of individuality and diversity,” said Nicholas Main, an Olympia high junior.

Main and a group of other student leaders helped organize the early morning event.

Along with students and school staffers, community and local church members also attended the outdoor event in the rain.

“There was this overwhelming feel of love and compassion,” said senior Sam Tanner.

The students said they wanted the church protesters to know the community supports the people Westboro targets, homosexuals.

“Our community is really strong and everybody here respects everybody else,” said junior Chantel Arebalo.

At the Thurston County Auditor's Office, one counter protester held a sign that read, "Hell is gonna be fabulous."

Students were encouraged to wear school colors, to not make signs and to not engage with anyone from Westboro.

"We respect our peers for who they are and not for who we wish them to be," one student told the crowd.

Several students wore shirts featuring a blue heart and the phrase "OLY Love" on it.

Westboro also publicized their intent on protesting at the funeral of one of the victims of last week's shootings in Seattle. The group also appeared outside the King County Administration building. Counter protesters there shielded Westboro by holding up pink sheets.

KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen and Lindsay Chamberlain contributed to this report.

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