My family was in town doing our monthly organic food shopping in August when we ended up hearing about a ruckus on the local radio. It turns out that local protesters showed up outside an Adam Lambert concert in Springfield, Missouri. Supposedly some protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, were going to show up and protest the concert in the buckle of Bible belt.
When we drove past Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts instead of seeing the Phelps protesters there were pro-gay anti-protests going on. Signs like “Make Love, Not Hate” and the like were everywhere. Across the street from the venue were people who did not have tickets to the concert but showed up because the followers of Fred Phelps were scheduled to be there. You can see the scheduled pickets here on Westboro’s website.
Video of the picketers can be seen here on Daily Kos. There were no signs of the funeral protesters even though they’ve threatened southwest Missouri’s military funerals before according to this blog post.
My family was amazed at the display of support for gays. They clearly were prepared and didn’t even care that they didn’t get into the concert to see Adam Lambert. The atmosphere was almost festive with a touch of concern. Everywhere it seemed like the protesters against the church were waiting for the other side to show up.
We’ve seen many conservative Christians protest any range of issues in Springfield from abortion rights to having risqué art on display such as the Venus de Milo sculpture. When faced with a strong opposition, it appears that those who lean to the right didn’t bother.
There weren’t any tense moments or any more police than was necessary for a concert in Springfield. The venue was clearly used to such a thing and traffic was slowed but still was flowing down Hammons Parkway. With so many close calls with military funerals, my wife and I were afraid that a riot may break out at any time should the Westboro Baptist Church show up.
For once love did conquer hate. For once a quick and organized move on the Internet outlasted a very motivated religious movement that’s been organized for years. It’s almost as if the counter protesters were the Marines taking down Saddam’s ugly regime. It was brilliant and it brought tears of joy to my eyes.