Society

Bikers Stand Guard Against Westboro Baptist Protesters

| by Sean Kelly
Westboro Baptist Church protestWestboro Baptist Church protest

A group of bikers were among the counter protesters who stood against the Westboro Baptist Church when they showed up to the funeral of one of the 49 victims at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 

The extremist church appeared at the funeral for 32-year-old Christopher Leonin on June 18 with signs that boasted the phrases “God is not mocked,” and “God hates fag enablers,” CTV reports. The church, however, was a small group compared to the 1,000+ people who defended Leonin and other the victims of the mass shooting. 

Among the counter protesters was a group of bikers, pictured wearing identical outfits and marching alongside the LGBT community.

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Two of the counter protesters, Angel Gabriel Vasquez and his husband Adam, showed up wearing a rainbow-colored Puerto Rican flag around their necks, The Washington Post reports. The couple lives in Pennsylvania but flew to their former hometown after the massacre.

“This is where we grew up. This is where we matured as young gay men. And to be Puerto Rican, Latin night was one of our favorite nights,” Angel told The Washington Post. “This is where our hearts is.”

His husband said Westboro has “a sick, twisted view." He added that "they push people away from Christian religion.”

Angel said that as a gay Christian, the church’s message of hate is particularly sickening.

“God loves everyone,” he said. “He made me this way. I can’t help it. I tried to be normal, straight, but it’s who I am. It’s who I was made to be.”

An Orlando theater company created a display of white wings to protect mourners from protestors. The wings were used on June 18 during a 12-hour counter peace protest where Leinonen's service was held.

“This is in support of the fallen and the families of the fallen...,” the theater's artistic director Jim Helsinger said "...We will have lots of people there providing love to counter those groups there with hate.”

Sources: CTV, The Washington Post, Miami Herald / Photo credit: Mark Schierbecker/Wikipedia, Richard Madan/Twitter via CTV

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