On March 9, several representatives, including two children, of the Westboro Baptist Church came to the University of Chicago campus armed with signs such as “God Hates You” and “God Is Your Enemy.” They essentially position themselves as an anti-gay group, their official website being godhatesfags.com. Students were warned ahead of time not to clash with the group because it’s known to take legal action against anyone who interferes with its protests. As it so happened, only a couple people actually interacted with the WBC members in an attempt to find out their ideology and why they were there. They reported that the church members claimed to be spreading the word of God. The approximately 300 other students who were present avoided all verbal abuse and staged mock protests, some carrying signs that read, among other things, “God Hates You When You Don’t Call.” Other students distributed flyers with “God Hates Figs” as their chief claim.
The Westboro Baptist Church intended to move to strategic spots on campus, including the Law School, where President Barack Obama used to teach. The WBC calls Obama “The Beast,” and in fact a “God Hates Obama” sign was on hand to stress the point. However, they garnered the most attention when they were situated across the street from the Oriental Institute Museum, near the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house, whose members created a banner for the event that read “No Tolerance for Intolerance.” Several brothers danced on the balcony to songs such as “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John and “It’s Raining Men.”
Though the atmosphere was light-hearted, it was with a purpose: student organization Queers and Associates proposed that people donate money to the Broadway Youth Center for every minute that the Westboro Baptist Church was present. Moreover, a coalition of student groups organized a series of events with music and food to have people come together. Ultimately, an occasion that was intended to repress human rights brought several hundred people together in a festive and accepting environment, illustrating the positive power of a peaceful protest.