You came to the wrong neighborhood, mother-Phelps-ers.
Originally written for the MSU Exponent.
People talk about Gold Rush or Homecoming as moments of great Bobcat pride, but for me, there was no moment I have been prouder to be a Bobcat than on Sept. 9 when the MSU and Bozeman community turned out to oppose the Westboro Baptist Church’s ‘visit’ to our community. Forget speeches by authors of overrated books, Monday presented an opportunity for new students to truly learn what being a Bobcat and a Bozemanite is truly all about.
The day began innocently enough. I took to the Mall with my Guy Fawkes mask (to voice support for Anonymous’s battles with the WBC), a tee shirt of Jesus riding a Tyrannosaurus and my homemade sign proudly proclaiming “ODIN HATES FROST GIANTS”. I received many compliments and people who wanted pictures with me, it was a fun ego boost. I grew bored of the equality rally after the first few speakers, and seeing that it was getting close to 2:30, I knew there were places I’d rather be.
The moment was incredible. Sure enough, as I walked to the Earth and Physical Science Building, and saw a crowd gathering and a banner proudly proclaiming the presence of the Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus, my heart raced. As I edged closer, I saw the iconic homosexual-and-America-condemning signs. The picketing delegation was rather uninspiring. There was an unidentified man, a kid who looked rather bored and uncomfortable, and the Vice-Baroness of the Sixth Circle of Hell herself, Shirley Phelps-Roper. I was more surprised they actually showed up, but when I saw they had arrived, I wasn’t going to question this wonderful opportunity.
Police had already formed a perimeter, but counter-protesters swarmed around them regardless. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle claimed three hundred people arrived to counter-protest, but being there, it felt like thousands stood beside me. A man dressed as Jesus threw flyers into the air. A heckler with a microphone entertained the crowd with wonderful jokes about anal intercourse and incestual relations. The Patriot Guard blared their motorcycle engines, and were met with cheers each time.
The High School counter-protest was just as inspiring. The teenagers of Bozeman opposed the WBC with the same fire and vigor seen at the college, there was even some girl decked out in a penguin mask. A street preacher loudly proclaimed his opposition to the Church and challenged a debate, but in typical inbred hater fashion, the Phelpses ignored him to sing their poorly-written parody songs. If only Weird Al had been there.
In this hour-long span, students and Bozeman residents with all of the differences in the world came together to share one thing: Our love for our fellow man; our friends, classmates, co-workers, family, neighbors and even people we otherwise find annoying but still support their right to be whoever they wanted to be. Some say we only give the Church what they want by creating a spectacle, but Monday’s protest was about something bigger. It’s a cliche to say this, but these words rang so very true: Love is more powerful than hate. The community of Bozeman and Montana State University proved this by turning out one of the most powerful displays of support and unity I have ever seen, and the message goes out to all.
With this being my last year at MSU, I can look back and confidently say this was my proudest moment as a Bobcat and a Montanan. We showed why this community is one of the greatest places in the nation to live. Equality and love are Montana values, and if the WBC returns as they threatened to in a KBZK interview, we’ll prove it once again.
Writer’s Note: While I am privileged to serve as the Opinion Editor of the Exponent, my actions on Sept. 9 were completely my own and independent of this publication. At no point during the counter-protests did I identify myself as a member of this organization, nor did I utilize press privileges to gain access to sensitive areas I would not have otherwise had. Likewise, my words and statements in this article are my own, and do not represent the opinions and stances of the MSU Exponent as a whole.