Counter-protestors overwhelm Westboro Baptist Church picketers


Fernando Haro/The Union

Supporters of LGBTQIA+ community hold rainbow flags and posters promoting love and equality outside El Camino College on Monday, Jan. 6. Counter-protestors overwhelmed the handful of Westboro Baptist Church and anti-gay demonstrators.

Warning: This story contains language that may be disturbing to some readers.

Counter-protesters carrying rainbow pride flags filled the corners of Crenshaw and Manhattan Beach Boulevard in response to a demonstration by anti-gay picketers outside of El Camino College on Monday, Jan. 6.

In town to protest last nights’ Golden Globes, a small number of supporters from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kansas gathered outside ECC Monday morning to hold a demonstration.

Steve Drain, a WBC elder who was in attendance, said the demonstration was an effort to share the bible with the people of the El Camino community who he believes are falling off a metaphorical cliff due to their sins.

“Since they were babies, their moral compasses are broken; they’re told it’s okay to be gay when the bible says it’s wrong,” Drain told The Union. “We’re here to inject a little bit of truth into what’s otherwise an insane orgy of fag and tranny lies.”

Known for their homophobic beliefs and antagonistic protests across the country, the WBC arrived with signs reading “Repent or Perish” and “God Hates Workers of Iniquity.”

Fernando Haro/The Union
Westboro Baptist Church elder Steve Drain holds signs speaking against gay marriage and sodomy outside of El Camino College on Monday, Jan. 6. Members of the WBC will continue their demonstrations in California during the remainder of the month.

Minutes into their demonstration, WBC supporters were overwhelmed by more than 40 counter-protesters, including students, teachers and members of the surrounding EC community who showed up in support of their LGBTQIA+ peers.

Among the counter-protesters was 18-year-old Victoria Atkinson, undeclared major, who told The Union that she heard about the protest during her first day of English class.

Atkinson, who is openly bisexual and has a gay sister, said she first heard of WBC and their hateful speech through online platforms and was happy to participate in the counter-protests.

“Coming out here is just for a good cause,” Atkinson said while holding a poster reading “Love is Love” towards oncoming traffic. “You have ministers here and priests here that support us more than they support [WBC] and that’s something to say.”

Rev. Steve Wilson, 52, standing tall among the counter-protesters, waved a large rainbow-colored flag as he attended the event after being informed about it by an ECC professor who is a member of his congregation.

Fernando Haro/The Union
Rev. Steve Wilson waves a rainbow-colored pride flag while participating in counter-protests against the Westboro Baptist Church on Monday, Jan. 6. Wilson is a minister at Pacific Unitarian Universalist Church and disagrees with the opinions of the WBC.

“[I’m] just standing up for personal and individual rights and trying to make the world a more beloved community and a safer place for everyone,” Wilson said. “It was a simple thing to do, we want to be as active as we can in promoting good values.”

Wilson, a minister at Pacific Unitarian Universalist Church, said that despite his profession, he does not agree that WBC should formulate their opinions, including anti-gay hate speech, based on a book written more than 2000 years ago.

Wilson said that supporters of the WBC have a right to their own opinion and that he holds no grudges toward them.

“I think making the transition into a world that accepts the diversity of humanity as it is, is progress, Wilson said. “You want to be part of that, you want to be on the right side of history as they say.”

But Drain said he sees being gay as an act of disobedience towards God.

“Bottom line is if God says something is a sin, it’s for all time,” Drain said. “Culture doesn’t move.”

When you teach the youth of America or a young person to disobey any commandments, you’re teaching them it’s okay to murder, Drain said.

“You’re teaching them that if [God] didn’t mean this, he did not mean that,” Drain said. “If he said it, he meant it.”