HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — A controversial church did not make good on a promise to protest outside Hastings High School. The Westboro Baptist Church took issue with the school’s performance of “The Laramie Project”, a play based on the death of Mathew Shepard, a gay man from Wyoming.
Word spread that members of the church, an organization known for its anti-gay rhetoric, would protest. So the community took action.
On the sidewalks surrounding Hastings High School, a community waited to greet an unwelcome guest.
“I never liked the Baptist Westboro Church people,” said Sadie Arvidson, who drove in from Minneapolis to protest.
“What they’re doing just isn’t right,” said AJ Sanstad, a protestor.
Through the power of the Internet, word got around that Westboro Church members would picket the final performance of the Laramie project.
With the help of the Angel Wings, which debuted at Mathew Shepard’s funeral, more than a hundred people sent a clear message using signs and solidarity: Hastings is an accepting community.
“We’ll stand here with our signs and show our pride,” said Erin Bohmbach of Minneapolis.
“It’s wonderful to see how many people stand up for what they believe in,” said Dale Skov, who lives in Hastings.
For more than an hour they waited before it became clear that the WBC was not going to show up. No Westboro meant no confrontation.
The community sees it as a win in the ongoing push for equality.
“It’s a victory for us,” said Sanstad.
“I think it shows Hastings does support people of every gender, color, sexuality,” said Diane Rickert of Hastings.
The Westboro Baptist Church posts its protest schedule on its website. There have been instances where this church has scheduled a protest, but never showed up.
They also threatened to protest the same play at Neenah High School in Wisconsin on Saturday. Again, they were a no-show.