Members of American River College’s LGBTA student organization, Fierce, participated in a counter-protest to a planned protest by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church Thursday at Granite Bay High School.
The Westboro Baptist Church, which is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, announced via Twitter that they would be protesting a student play, “The Laramie Project,” at Granite Bay High School.
The play tells the story of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming, who was killed because of his sexual orientation.
On the day of the play, however, only one protester showed up, compared to the hundreds of counter protestors.
“It was important for Fierce to be here because as older peer mentors to the high school students here – a lot of them go to college – we wanted them to understand that there are safe spaces for them there as well as here,” said Fierce member Lydian Countryman.
As for the Westboro Baptists, Countryman believes that the Westboro Baptist Church has helped the gay rights cause.
“I don’t feel like the Westboro Baptist Church is as effective as they once thought they were … people really do not want messages of hate no matter what the topic or the issue is. They don’t want that slammed in her face,” said Countryman.
Brett Spencer, another ARC student and Fierce member also came out to show his support for gay students at Granite Bay High School.
“I identify as a gay man and I have experienced oppression and discrimination my entire life,” Spencer said.
“I’m out here to support the younger generation and let them know that it’s okay to be yourself whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, however you identify, it’s okay and there are people who will stand with you and walk with you on the difficult path.”
The Granite Bay High School drama teacher Kyle Holmes, said that the counter protest put the message of “The Laramie project” into focus.
“Tonight is really great because we’re able to bring that into focus for the community and put that all over the news and show the community that it’s not just me and 22 17-year-olds who think that,” said Holmes, “there’s a hundred people here.”
The student directors of “The Laramie Project” were Perry Vargas and Robert DeLeon.
“I want people to realize the impact that hatred has,” DeLeon said. “I’d rather that be what comes out of this rather than a news story about the Westboro Baptist Church.”
Vargas said that they put on the show because we were moved by the message that it had and the story that it told, “you can see with the effects of it already, blind hatred is not needed in this world.”
Alex Rocca, President of the Granite Bay High School Gay Straight Alliance, said he hopes that love is what comes out of Thursday’s situation.
Rocca says that GSA stands by them 100 percent, “I hope that all that comes out of this is that our community comes together and realizes that a message of love is so much more powerful than a message of hate and love will always prevail,” said Rocca.
As for Spencer, a psychology major, he hopes that what comes out of Thursday’s events is reasonable discussion and tolerance.
“It’s not easy growing up and being told that you’re wrong … I always hope that by a peaceful and respectful exchange of ideas we might be able to influence the way we think about each other, come to a better understanding of each other, and reduce prejudice which leads to discrimination. If I can make a difference I would like to help educate them on differences between individuals.”