Westboro members protest in Spokane


Mckenzie Ford

Community members in disagreement with Westboro Baptist Church stood on the opposite side of the street of protesters. They were not going to let the protest be one-sided.

By Sam Jackson, Reporter

Five members of the Westboro Baptist Church, picketed controversial messages throughout Spokane, on Oct. 11, as a greater amount of counter protesters readied for a showdown at every location.

The members of the church based out of Topeka, Kansas are known for traveling the United States to hatefully oppose soldiers, environmentalists, scientists, the LGBTQ+ community and religions they disagree with.

The church has engaged in over 62,740 demonstrations.

The Spokane County Human Rights Task Force released a statement encouraging the Spokane community to “spend time and money for good” by donating to charities, and to attend an event called Interfaith Vigil for Peace instead of counter-protesting.

But some members of the community chose to counter protest regardless.

The Westboro Baptist Church members have not been to Spokane to protest since 2010. It was a conference hosted by the North American Association for Environmental Education that brought the group this time.

Church members gathered outside the Spokane Convention Center waving vibrant signs last Thursday afternoon, including one that read, “Mother Nature is a false god.”

Mckenzie Ford
Shirley Phelps-Roper protested outside the Convention Center on Thursday evening. She and other Westboro Baptist Church members sang songs and waved signs around at the protest.

“They’ve got a lot of words but they don’t include God into the discussion,” Shirley Phelps-Roper, a protester who has been a Westboro member for 50 years said.

Observers were not allowed to approach the church group’s side of the protest.

“What we hope to accomplish is just to put these words into the air, to warn our neighbor that their sin is taking them to hell,” Phelps-Roper said. “If they don’t repent and flee the wrath to come that then they’re going to land in hell with all the rest.”

Protesters next stop was right outside of Gonzaga University on Cincinnati Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. The church group piled onto the street corner surrounded by caution tape and a heavy police presence.

On the opposite street corners, there were over 100 counter protesters chanting and holding signs.

“Zags Love the Gays,” one sign said.

EWU senior Alexander Brooks and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community chose not to attend the counter-protesting event this time.

“I tear up everytime,” Brooks said. “It’s just that I grew up Presbyterian and it was at an accepting church. So, seeing that hate group coming from a Christian community is painful.”

Phelps-Roper does not know when or if the church members plan to return to Spokane again.

“They’ve [the church] been doing this for so long that it’s just exhausting […] and it’s disappointing because they are not even willing to change and they might never change,” Brooks said. “It’s sad and I feel so sad for the people apart of it to be so closed-minded that they do things like this.”