Fred Phelps, pastor and founder of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), which is known for its anti-gay protests, is scheduled to protest at Gunn High School tomorrow, Friday, January 29.
Along with other members of the WBC, Phelps plans to picket the school with anti-gay messages such as “God hates fags” and “America is doomed” from 7:25 a.m. to 7:55 a.m., the time that students typically arrive at school.
Although Phelps has made plans to protest at Gunn on Friday, he and the WBC may or may not be there; in the past, Phelps has sometimes failed to attend all the planned protests.
Nevertheless, Gunn High School Principal Noreen Likins sent out a message to parents notifying them that the school decided to begin classes on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Students have been asked to stay away from campus until after 8 a.m.
In response to the Phelps’ planned protest, students at Gunn have decided to host a Phelps-A-Thon. Phelps-A-Thon is a pro-civil rights organization focused on turning negative sentiment toward Phelps and the WBC into donations to make positive change for all people affected by Phelps’ message.
During the WBC picket, students can make donations to benefit the Gunn High School Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA). An online pledge site has been set up, where pledges can be made for every minute of the protest.
One of the main focuses of the Phelps-A-Thon at Gunn is to raise funds that will counter Phelps’ message and help spread the importance of LGBT equality.
The other main objective is to send a card to Phelps after the event with the amount in donations raised during the protest. The letter could potentially deter Phelps from picketing in the future if he realizes that as his actions actually result in fundraising.
Many students feel strongly about the picket but believe peaceful protest is more powerful that a strong counter-protest.
“I feel it is important to show the unity and inclusiveness of Gunn as a community,” Gunn High School sophomore Sierra Fan said. “We are not going to strongly acknowledge [Phelps and the WBC] and only quietly show how we are a community.”
By standing together during Phelps’ protest, students believe that they can effectively support the LGBT community. In response to the news that Phelps will be picketing at Gunn, nearly 1,000 students from various schools have responded to the Facebook invitation for the event “We Don’t Tolerate Hatred at Gunn.”
According to the organizers and administrators of the event on Facebook, senior Ronit Roodman, junior Cat Volpe, junior Emily Simon, and senior Leilani Graham, Gunn is being targeted because “[the school] is so accepting.”
Students from outside Gunn will not be allowed on campus in order to avoid any possible confusion or danger.
LAHS GSA adviser Erica Starks has been in communication with the GSA advisers at Gunn. According to Starks, the advisers at Gunn “greatly appreciated our willingness to help, but have asked that we remain at LAHS.”
Although students from LAHS cannot be at Gunn during the protest, the LAHS GSA has still been making contributions to support the club at Gunn.
Starks and other members of the GSA have emailed their friends and families in order to spread the word about contributing to the fundraising efforts at Gunn. A request to all students to support the LGBT community was also made over the morning announcements on Thursday, January 28.
“In an effort to show our solidarity with our neighboring school, we have set an announcement to be read on Thursday asking our student body to wear bright colors or LGBT-friendly clothes,” Starks said. “We want to respect Gunn’s request to not engage the hate group and feel these two efforts respectfully show our support.”