Charleston, West VA, Video and Slideshow. A positive wave of energy has emerged from West Virginia, as people in Charleston and Wheeling spread love in the face of the Westboro Baptist hate group. Stop the Hate Rallies, Spread the Love flash mobs, and yard signs of unity dramatically overwhelmed the bigoted placards carried by the Fred Phelps family (known as Westboro Baptist Church) The small band of bigots—known for their anti-gay venom-- targeted Jewish and Catholic institutions and a local university in Charleston. Horrifically, as news from the Montcoal Mine disaster became more tragic, the hate group also targeted the community of fallen miners.
But West Virginians were having none of it.
A double-sided full-page ad with a large pink heart appeared in the Charleston Gazette and Daily Mail. On the opposite side was a list of coalition sponsors who urged West Virginians to place the poster in their windows to create “a community that welcomes everyone into its heart.” A local steak house posted this message on its marquee: West Virginia A Place for Love not Hate. The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce circulated a No Place for Hate poster featuring a menorah, a dove and a rainbow.
A coalition of local leaders was called together to plan a response, but it wasn’t easy. Most of the groups targeted did not want counter protestors to appear when the Westboro group showed up. The coalition resisted the idea of counter protests in favor of demonstrations of community unity. One of the most creative methods emerged from Covenant House, a group who helped organize flash mobs of local residents who practiced electric slide steps as they danced to a disco beat version of “Take me Home Country Roads.” While most of the dancing took place away from Westboro pickets, this video covers some boisterous interactions on the Capitol steps following one of the flash mobs.
Hundreds gathered for a “Stop the Hate” rally on the Capitol steps on Thursday April 8. As they rallied and sang, they signed a pledge to strengthen civic values—by welcoming everyone.
Check back here for more coverage and photos, downloadable materials and a Local Lesson from West Virginians on how to respond to Westboro.
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See the green dots and local action on the NIOT.org map from West Virginia