Members of the Westboro Baptist Church traveled to the Connecticut town Newtown with the intention of picketing memorial services for the victims of the mass shooting at the town’s elementary school but never left their hotel rooms thanks to a resounding community response.
Volunteers, including off duty police officers, firefighters and bikers traveled across country to join with locals in forming a human barricade to stop members of the church from trying to picket the funeral of Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung in the neighboring town of Woodbury on Wednesday.
Last week a website for members of New York’s Fire Department put out a call for off duty emergency workers to travel to Sandy Hook.
‘Firefighters and Police Officers … We are trying to assemble teams of 15 to stand in a wall blocking the Westboro Baptist Church protesters from the families during the funerals of the victims of the shootings,’ the post read.
‘If you are able to put together teams of 15 and can get to Newtown CT please let us know. If you would like to go single, or with a few, also let us know, and we will try to put teams together.’
A large contingent of members of the Patriot Guard Riders coalition of motorcycle clubs – made up mostly of military veterans – was also in attendance.
The town has no requirement that persons wanting to protest seek a permit so there was nothing that authorities could have done if church members had gone ahead but in the end they never left their hotel rooms.
The wake for Hochsprung began without incident around 3pm and shortly afterwards Patch.com reported an announcement from Nicole Sabel of the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury that the Westboro Baptists would be staying away.
A day before the memorial service the estranged son of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps had released a statement condemning the planned picketing action.
‘My sincere hope is that the Sandy Hook community is able to grieve and mourn privately, and with whatever peace can be had in knowing the rest of the world mourns with you,’ wrote son Nate Phelps, who is a board member of the group Recovering from Religion.
In related news, on Friday the internet security company the Westboro Baptists have hired to protect its website from attack by the Anonymous internet collective announced that it would be donating the money it received from Westboro to charity.
‘By terminating their service, we would not actually take their sites offline,’ a Black Lotus spokesman told Wikinews.
‘Instead, they would be without DDoS protection for a short period of time until they found another service that would harbor them. This logic did not add up for us.’
‘We have received overwhelming support for donations to be given to various groups supporting the Newtown community, veterans groups like the Wounded Warrior Project, and LGBT groups like The Trevor Project.’