A Westboro Baptist Church protest was overshadowed by a horde of counter-demonstrators dressed as zombies. The zombies gathered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base near DuPont Washington, to counter the Westboro Church's effort.
Melissa Neace, 27, launched a Facebook page titled, "Zombie'ing Westboro Baptist Church AWAY from Fort Lewis!" in the effort to organize a zombie counter-protest against members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church after they announced plans to picket Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
According to the News Tribune, Neace said: "We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at. It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful."
The Inquisitr reports the Facebook page instructed zombie protesters:
NO violence, NO throwing of objects, NO launching of objects, NO PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH ANY MEMBER OF THE WBC. Don’t even speak to them! This is for your safety, these people are sue happy and will look for any reason to sue you! WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS! Please act like adults!
According to The Huffington Post, about 300 counter-protesters showed up in zombie garb and far outnumbered the Westboro picketers. KIROTV reports only eight members of the Westboro Church showd up.
Police officers from the DuPont Police Department and Washington State Patrol troopers were present at the event. The zombie protesters gathered across the street from the Westboro protesters.
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reports that Ashley Winslow, one of the zombie protesters, said: "I think that their message is very hateful, and Jesus was not a hateful person. He loved everybody."
Ashlee Nerad, another protester, said her group came because "I come from a long line of military, including my husband, so when they protest my troops, I’m going to protect my First Amendment rights and protest them."
Westboro protesters reportedly left at the time their permit to protest expired. Police officers made no arrests during the demonstration.
The Huffington Post reports it is unclear why the Westboro Baptist Church targeted DuPont military base, but the group has picketed military funerals in the past. According to the Westboro Church, military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for tolerance of homosexuality, gay marriage and "gay lifestyles" in the US. Westboro picketers hold up signs with offensive messages such as "God hates fags" at military funerals.
KIROTV reports that Steve Drain of the Westboro Baptist Church, said: "Amazon’s founder said he’s going to put $2.5 million in the kitty. Amazon.com’s founder [donated] to push for [same-sex] marriage in the state of Washington, and you think God kills soldiers because of that? Absolutely, he does."
The group announced plans to intensify its picketing campaign after the Supreme Court ruled that demonstrators are protected by the First Amendment.
This is not the first time a group has organized a counter-protest against the Westboro Church. The Huffington Post reports that at a Texas A&M University protest, students dressed in maroon formed a circle around a funeral and discouraged Westboro protesters from showing up.
Digital Journal reports mourners formed a human "wall of love" around a vigil for victims of the Aurora shooting to keep Westboro picketers away.