Rachel Harrison | Staff Reporter
Bernard DuBray, superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt School District, got a disturbing message on Thursday, Feb. 2, at roughly 3 p.m.
The well-known Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) would be picketing one of his high schools, Fort Zumwalt East (FZE), on Monday morning, Feb. 6, from 6:55-7:25 a.m., the time when buses roll in and parents drop off students to start the day.
DuBray contacted school officials to prepare for protests on Monday morning. When students found out Friday afternoon, Feb. 4, at a pep assembly, they decided to band together and prepare for counter-protesting on Feb. 6.
All of the pre-counter-protesting planning was done through Twitter, Facebook and a series of emails.
Westboro Baptist Church is based out of Topeka, Kan., and has been making national headlines for quite some time. They are known for protesting at deceased soldiers’ funerals and other events with signs such as, “Pray for more dead soldiers” and “God hates f**s.”
Some speculation is circulating as to why WBC chose this school, but according to a recent article on www.ksdk.com, the WBC claims a student from Fort Zumwalt East personally invited them.
“His email was to the effect of ‘We’ve got proud homosexuals strutting up and down the halls of this school. You’ve got to come’,” said Margie Phelps, an attorney for WBC, and the daughter of the WBC pastor.
In three days of knowing the WBC was coming to FZE, students and alumni banded together via Facebook to start counter-protest preparations. Students from all over the St. Peters and St. Charles areas worked together over the weekend on “welcoming” the WBC.
Ryan Blubough, a Fort Zumwalt South student that helped start the Facebook page and counter-protest, said, “I made the Facebook group and invited everyone. We put up pictures and contacted the media to get ready.”
DuBray spoke about the camaraderie of the schools. “I think it’s good to see the support for the school and that’s what they say they’re here for,” he said. “I think it would be better if we did as much as we could to ignore the situation, and it would probably go away quicker, but I do understand the students wanting to support their school.”
Hundreds of students lined up with cars, honking and screaming to show support for FZE. Even some Lindenwood students were there to watch the protest and participate.
Sky Toland, a United States Marine and Lindenwood student, spoke about seeing his community come together for his former high school.
“I’m really glad to see the community come out, and everybody that I went to high school with, and all the current students and everybody from St. Peters,” he said. “It was really great to come out here to oppose WBC because they hate gay people and protest at military funerals.”
Ultimately, WBC never did show up to FZE but instead chose to protest at St. Louis.