Students counter Westboro Baptist Church protest with show of solidarity for LGBTQ community

Story by Tygre Patchell-Evans | Photos by Mia Duncans

LMU water polo players joined the counter-protest of Westboro picketers

Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” blared from the back gates of Loyola Marymount University as students gathered Monday morning along Loyola Boulevard to counter the homophobic hate speech of the Westboro Baptist Church, the inflammatory religious extremist group infamous for protesting the funerals of American military service members.

The students beat Westboro to its own protest, playing music and chanting affirmations of LGBTQ acceptance before the handful of picketers arrived and until they departed about 20 minutes later, with students singing “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey-ey Goodbye” to send them off. The lively counter-demonstration included members of the men’s water polo team, who left practice to attend in their Speedos.

“It just sucks that they have to bring negativity into the world that’s already super negative, so we’re just here to stand in solidarity with everybody they’re protesting,” student Jessie Aramco said.

LMU denied the Westboro group entry to campus, and university officials had placed a rainbow sign by the back gates reading “just a reminder that … YOU ARE LOVED.”

Students became aware of the Westboro protest last Wednesday through a news article in the Los Angeles Loyolan, and many opted to follow the advice of a Friday Loyolan column by Raven Yamamoto suggesting students ignore the attention-seeking Westboro protestors, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League as a hate group.

“The best way to fight this group is to not give them any attention whatsoever and focus on reaffirming our queer students and those of the many faiths that the WBC verbally attacks,” Yamamoto, who passed out rainbow ribbons on campus, told The Argonaut.

LMU senior Hannah Morton said she was tempted to shout down the Westboro picketers, but “a bigger part of me just thinks ignoring them and giving them no attention might be better.”

Monday’s protest wasn’t the area’s first Westboro visit. In February 2015, members of the group picketed outside The Reserve in Playa Vista to denounce Harvey Levin’s entertainment news operation TMZ.