More than 200 people, many of whom were veterans, descended upon downtown St. Charles, Mo., at noon Thursday to counter a 30-minute protest by three sign-carrying members of the controversial Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, a group most well-known for protesting at military funerals.
The Westboro protest came less than three weeks after the St. Charles County Council passed a measure to ban protests within 300 feet of military funerals beginning one hour before the funeral begins and lasting until one hour after the funeral ends.
Veterans representing at least six Veterans of Foreign Wars posts came from as far away as Hannibal, Mo., 94 miles to the north, and DeSoto, Mo., 60 miles south, according to Roy Sherwood of VFW Post 2866 in St. Charles, Mo. Their mission: to make sure the Westboro protesters knew their message and actions against their fallen comrades were not appreciated.
“We fought for their right to do that, but we don’t agree with it,” Sherwood said. “We came down here as a group to show our support for our veterans.”
Navy veteran Harry Thomas of VFW Post 3944 in Overland, Mo., said he couldn’t understand why the Westboro protesters did what they did and chastised them for doing it.
“Anytime anybody wants to denounce that freedom, it’s wrong,” he said. “Either be for the country or get out of it.”
Army veteran Jim Sullentrop of VFW Post 312 in St. Charles echoed Thomas’ sentiments.
“I think it’s terrible,” Sullentrop explained after being asked what he thought of the Westboro people disrupting military funerals. “To disrupt a person’s family at that time? I don’t understand where they get the right to do that.”
Stephanie Rubach, a St. Louis-area nurse and active member of the St. Louis Tea Party, didn’t mince words as she explained why she came to the counter-protest.
“We’re here for America,” she said. “We’re here for our country and our soldiers. That’s what we stand for, and that’s why we’re here,” she added, “and we want them to know it.”
Asked what message he would deliver to the Westboro folks if given the opportunity, Sherwood said, “We don’t appreciate what you’re doing, you know it’s wrong, and the Good Lord will deal with you some day.”
According to a KSDK-TV report yesterday, the county goes to court against the http://stlouisteaparty.com/ over this issue Jan. 18, the same date the City of St. Charles will vote on a measure similar to the one adopted by the county last month.
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UPDATE 1/7/11 at 8:32 a.m. Central: Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace.com.