By The Associated Press
FLUSHING – A half-dozen protesters from Fred Phelps’ church who picketed the funeral of a Michigan soldier were met by hundreds of people carrying signs defending the military and honoring the soldier as a hero.
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has outraged mourning communities across the nation by showing up at soldiers’ funerals. On March 11, six women picketed the funeral of Army Sgt. Joshua V. Youmans.
The women carried signs that read “God Hates You” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” outside St. Robert Catholic Church, The Flint Journal reported.
Members of Westboro Baptist Church contend God is striking down soldiers for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.
In response to these protests, several states have passed or considered legislation restricting when and where picketers may demonstrate at funerals.
On March 11 a number of groups, including members of local and state Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans posts, showed up to counter the protesters.
Also present were members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization that formed to counter the anti-gay protests. Some Patriot Guard members rode in on motorcycles, and about a dozen backed up to the protesters and revved their engines.
At one point, police had to restrain several people who tried to get too close to the protesters as they shouted at them. Police eventually escorted the protesters to their vehicles.
“The chickens have left the road,” said retired Marine Larry Helson, 60, a Patriot Guard member from Holt. Helson said his group and other community groups were there to shield mourners from the protesters.