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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Westboro Baptist Church pickets GW Hillel on campus

The Westboro Baptist Church picketed on campus Friday holding signs and wearing shirts with anti-gay slurs, prompting students to form a counter-protest across the street.

Members of the church gathered at the corner of F and 21st streets in front of GW Hillel’s building for about 40 minutes singing Christian songs and holding signs that said, “SOLDIERS DIE 4 FAG MARRIAGE” and “FORGETTING GOD = HELL.”

Jael Holroyd, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, said the group came to campus to protest GW Hillel and encourage its Jewish members to convert to Christianity to avoid “the coming wrath of Jesus Christ.”

“If you knew your friend was in danger or even someone you didn’t necessarily know don’t you think you owe it to them to say, ‘Hey there’s danger ahead,’” she said.

Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, the executive director of GW Hillel, declined to comment on the protest.

Holroyd said the group came from Topeka, Kan. to protest the People’s Climate March and the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to THRIVE conference for LGBTQ youth this weekend.

In response to the picketing, students in front of the Phi Sigma Kappa townhouse across the street blasted music through speakers, including songs like “Same Love” and “We Are the Champions.”

“That was the typical response which you know we anticipating,” Holroyd said. “We had our music prepared to preach to them in that way too and to block out their nonsensical noise as well.”

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said GW learned of the protest earlier this week.

“Members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested on public sidewalks and individuals have a right to peacefully protest on public property,” Csellar said in an email.

Senior John Gibbons was sitting in the townhouse across the street working when he noticed the group and helped set up the speakers to counter-protest.

“This is supposed to a marketplace of ideas, so at the same time, we’re allowed to express our ideas to them and eventually just drown them out,” he said.

Alex Johnston, a senior in Phi Sigma Kappa, said he was studying for finals at the time the protest started and he called the University Police Department, who told him that the group had a permit for the corner.

A Metropolitan Police Department car pulled up in front of the protesters before they packed up their signs and left, Johnston said.

“We’re not gonna stand for their hateful rhetoric,” he said.

Cayla Harris contributed reporting.

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