As funerals begin for those murdered in Newtown, Conn., words comes that Fred Phelps and his Band of Weirdos from Westboro "Church" are planning to spew their venom against first-graders and their families. On Facebook, people were posting about ways to protect mourners should this occur. Military veterans have already figured this out, with a motorcycle honor guard that provides a buffer between the WBC and funeral-goers. Before that, it was the LGBT community who had a fine answer with "Angel Actions."
The first Angel Action against Fred Phelps and the WBC took place in Laramie, Wyoming, at memorial services (and subsequent trials) for murdered gay UW student Matthew
Shepard in 1998. WBC had also protested at Shepard's funeral in Casper nine days after the murder. In Laramie, LGBT activist Romaine Patterson, a Wyoming native and friend of
Matthew's, came up with the idea of dressing as angels to protect
mourners from WBC's hatred. Similar actions have taken place whenever
Fred and his crew show up to protest showings of "The Laramie Project," a
play (and later a movie) by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater
Project. There was an Angel Action in Tucson in January 2011 when the
WBC threatened to show up (but didn't) at the funerals of those killed in the
shooting that wounded Gabrielle Giffords. It appears that an Angel
Action may next be required in Connecticut.
While it's easy to get angry and Phelps and his crew, it's hard to come up with peaceful ways to blunt the hate.
This post has been updated.