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Today's Question: How should Columbia deal with hate groups?

Friday, April 24, 2009 | 1:48 p.m. CDT

An anti-gay group is scheduled to stop in Columbia to protest the City Council's unanimous approval to create a domestic partnership registry.

Westboro Baptist Church members have announced they will stop in Columbia on May 14 on their way to St. Louis to protest an Elton John concert, but it's not uncommon for Westboro protesters not to show.

In an interview with Tribune reporter Sara Semelka, one member of the group, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said: “It was a deliberate, in-your-face affront to the plain standards of God. The domestic partner registry is just one more flip-off to God. … A nation that rises up and says it’s OK to be gay is a doomed nation.”

This type of protest is reminiscent of the March 2007 neo-Nazi parade, when members of the National Socialist Movement marched down Ninth Street to protest the "Marxism" at MU.

In 2007, police urged residents to stay away, but hundreds showed up to protest the 20-man march.

Stephens College student Katelyn DeShazo has begun organizing a counter-protest, but it's likely police will ask citizens to stay away again.

Obviously the more people who show up, the more potential there is for violence, but turning the cold shoulder to hate-groups will never be effective unless every single resident does it, which is unlikely.

What is the best way to deal with hate groups coming to Columbia?


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Comments

Joe City April 28, 2009 | 9:55 a.m.

Take the police departments advice.

Ignore them.

If you go down there and protest, it's what they want.
They thrive on it.

(Report Comment)
Sue Owens May 15, 2009 | 2:30 p.m.

I went to the Phelps counterprotest last night at the Elton John concert in St. Louis. It was a lovely peaceful evening. We started as a group of seven but by the time the hour had passed, we had swelled to at least 40, with several passersby stopping and asking if they could stand with us for a while and hold up signs. The Phelps group had five police officers on their side of the street standing watch. We had one officer, whose only words to us were to stand back from the curb so we didn't get run over by traffic.

Ignoring evil allows it to exist. What we did last night was generate positive energy not just for the many young people who stood with us, but for the passing citizens. People honked and smiled and waved at us, gave us peace signs, thumbs up, cheers. Some of us on our side were gay and lesbian. I can only think how it must have lifted their hearts to see so many people who are not filled with hate and anger, but with tolerance and respect. I know it lifted mine!

I grew up in the sixties. Our gathering last night reminded me very much of those days, when people truly felt that we had the power to make positive changes.

You know what? We do.

(Report Comment)

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