THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) – A protest by a handful of members of the hate group Westboro Baptist Church was far outnumbered by dozens of counter-protesters outside Thousand Oaks High School Monday morning.
While just four WBC protesters stood on a sidewalk outside the school, across the street, a large crowd also gathered with signs to counter the WBC’s hateful rhetoric.
Last week, the school sent out emails to parents warning them about the WBC protest, but encouraged students to come to class and ignore the hateful messages.
“It’s very disturbing that they would come to bring so much hate, after this city has gone through so much turmoil,” counter-protester Danielle Williams told CBS2. “I was evacuated from the fires, I live close to where the shooting was.”
The WBC’s followers claim that the mass shooting at Borderline Bar last November, along with the Woolsey Fire that immediately followed, were punishments from a wrathful God. They specifically attacked Thousand Oaks High’s Pride Alliance, mental health and Catholic clubs.
WBC has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its inflammatory speech. It is not associated with any Baptist denomination. Its protests have focused on Jews, Catholics, U.S. politicians, soldiers and the LGBTQ community.
“I wanted to show my support for the students and make it clear that they have people on their side,” another counter-protester told CBS2.
WBC protesters stayed for about one hour Monday before they said they were headed to Pepperdine University to protest there as well.
The group has made headlines in the past for disruptive protests at soldier funerals. That prompted passage of congressional bill in 2012 which requires that protesters stay 300 feet away from military funerals, and bans them from protesting two hours before and after the funeral service.