A group of people at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa participate in a counter-protest against a group from the Westboro Baptist Church over the weekend of May 18, 2013. (Photo: Steven Headley)
More from Ashley Rubcic, Organizer, on the Counter-Protest:
"As a result of teaming up with several other groups, including a biker club from north Alabama, the event became less somber and more of a celebration of unity and strength. What struck me the most was the overall positive attitude of the group of people with whom I stood. In nearly every picture you see smiles and signs which were completely silly and as irrelevant as the signs carried by the members of the Westboro Baptist group. There was no anger or tension."
More from Steven Headley, Organizer, on the April 2011 Tornadoes:
"The destruction and pain which happened on that day are honestly far beyond anyone's comprehension in the grand scheme of things. So many people's lives ended. So many people's lives were changed forever. I spent a lot of time in the weeks and months after the storm trying to help those affected when possible."
The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, known for protesting many events across the country, found itself outnumbered by a counter-protest at Tuscaloosa’s University of Alabama campus over the weekend.
The counter-protest was primarily organized through social media. While the Westboro protestors, numbering about a dozen, had their traditional signs denouncing homosexuals and divorce, as well as signs mentioning the devastating April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak that killed hundreds and injured thousands more.
Counterprotestors responded peacefully, with rebuttals such as “God is Love” and “No Hate,” and even more humorous signs such as one parodying the “Honey Badger” viral video. Photographs from the event also show that the counter-protestors were in greater numbers than the Westboro members.
Steven Headley, of Hueytown was one of the social media organizers of the counter-protest. He says it was personal for him after the tornadoes that struck that town and many other two years ago, “So many people's lives were changed forever. I spent a lot of time in the weeks and months after the storm trying to help those affected when possible. Once I heard Westboro planned to come here, I felt personally insulted.” He adds that “all of the event's planners feel like this was a TOTAL success!”
Ashley Rubcic, a Tuscaloosa native who also lived through the storms, says that she felt she “had to do something.” She also helped to organize and pull together the counter-protest. At the event, Rubcic adds that those participating in the counter-protest “sang, we chanted, but most importantly we stood together...As was the case after the tornado event of April 27th, the people of our city and state came together as one and not only endured, but became stronger.”
The Westboro group was allowed to stay on the campus for around a half hour. No criminal incidents were reported from either group, which was monitored by local authorities.