Sunday, July 16, 2006

Anti-Gay Protestors Picket Soldier's Funeral

Indiana's new law restricting protestors from within 500 feet of a funeral didn't stop church followers of the anti-gay bigoted Rev. Fred Phelps from demonstrating at the Huntington funeral of Indiana's latest soldier to be killed in the Iraq War. Phelps' Westboro Church claims God is killing U.S. soldiers because of the country's tolerance of homosexuality. The AP reports:

A wall of United States flags and the roaring of a motorcycle engine shielded mourners at the funeral of an Indiana soldier killed in Iraq from anti-gay protesters Saturday.

Counter-protesters carrying United States flags stood with their backs to members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, blocking the protest from the view of those attending the funeral of Indiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Paul S. Pabla at Huntington North High School. The church members- five women and one man-were restricted to an area taped off by police under a new state law that requires protesters to stay at least 500 feet from funeral proceedings.

The Westboro Church contends U.S. soldiers are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

Pabla, 23, died July 3 when he came under attack while on foot patrol in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. He was a member of the Kempton-based 139th Field Artillery but was deployed with the 150th Field Artillery from Bloomington.

About 80 officers from various police agencies maintained a buffer between protesters and counter-protesters, including veterans and the Patriot Guard Riders, a national group formed to offset Westboro Baptist Church protests.

"It's disturbing," said Seth Marshall, a Marine Corps veteran who filled his nearby yard with U.S. flags. "And it's disturbing, tying this in to the church. There's nothing Christian about it." At one point, when several people in the crowd were becoming agitated, Marshall rode his motorcycle into the street between the two groups and started the engine so that its roar drowned out the voices of demonstrators. He kept the motor going for about 30 minutes.

Police said two men from the crowd were taken into custody but later released. Police Chief Terry Stoffel said the men became enraged when protesters stomped on U.S. flags.

Police Capt. Tom McCutcheon said one of the men charged the protesters, and the other threw a water bottle at them.

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