Gunn students counter-protest Westboro Baptist Church

Gunn students and members of the Palo Alto community gathered in front of Gunn High School to counter-protest the picket of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) yesterday, Friday, January 29.

School started at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:55 a.m. as the administration decided that it would be safer for students to ignore Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. However, many students believed that a counter-protest was necessary.

“While the administration advocated ignoring Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, I was wholeheartedly against this course of action,” said Will Cromarty, president of the Gunn Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) and organizer of the counter-protest. “While ignoring Phelps would work in theory, it would not work in practice.”

Members of Gunn’s GSA encouraged students to show up to the protest and educated those planning to attend on the importance of keeping the protest from getting violent or hateful. Will said the GSA sold 200 T-shirts with the phrase “Gay? Fine by me” during lunch on the day before the protest and also sold all of the GSA club shirts.

“There were hundreds of students wearing these shirts in support of our counter-protest [on Friday morning],” Will said.

Students at Gunn felt that a counter-protest was both inevitable and essential.

“As members of a community that work for acceptance, it was our duty to ensure that this counter protest was as large as possible,” Will said.

The total turnout consisted of between 100 and 200 students, teachers and other supporters, some coming from as far away as Ashland, Oregon to participate in the protest.

“Considering we outnumbered the WBC protesters by more than 10 to 1, I believe our counter protest was extremely successful,” Will said.