The arch-conservative Westboro Baptist Church plans to demonstrate at GW Nov. 11 to protest the “God-hating heathens” it believes college-age students have become.
The rally falls on Veterans Day but according to the church’s website, the protest is to “remind this nation that this next generation of young people have been raised for the devil himself.”
The Kansas-based group – known nationally for demonstrating at military funerals and for its “God Hates Fags” signs – drew ire from GW students in 2009 when church members protested at the White House and other locations around D.C.
The GW Patriot – a non-partisan student journal – is planning a counterprotest against the group, and as of Sunday evening, more than 700 people say they plan to attend, according to the event’s Facebook group. The Patriot first broke the news about the protest.
“The Westboro Baptist Church is protesting against American soldiers on Veterans Day, disrespectfully using the same First Amendment rights that our troops fight and die for,” said Patriot editor in chief Will Frey.
Per the University’s demonstration policy, “Persons who are not members of the University community may participate in demonstrations, rallies, or equivalent activities on University campuses only upon invitation by a bona fide student, faculty or staff member unless otherwise specified by the University.”
Shirley Phelps-Roper, the attorney for the Westboro Baptist Church and daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, said her group plans to protest near Washington Circle. She expects 10 people to be in attendance.
“We don’t wait for invitation,” Phelps-Roper, 52, said of GW’s policy. “The Lord Jesus Christ said go out unto this world and preach this gospel.”
If more than 25 people attend the counterprotest, organizers will require a permit from MPD and GW to be held on campus. According to the University’s demonstration policy code, the demonstration can occur in Kogan Plaza, the Mid-Campus Quad – the area with the fountain next to Kogan Plaza – or University Yard.
Frey said The Patriot is in the process of applying for permits.
Darrell Darnell, the senior associate vice president for safety and security, said the University Police Department will provide support to MPD as needed.
“[Protesters] have a First Amendment right to march on public space around GW’s campuses,” Darnell said.