June 17–The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida is calling for peaceful protesters to block “hate” after the infamous Westboro Baptist Church told city officials on Thursday it intended to demonstrate near a downtown church on Saturday.
That’s when a service is scheduled for two victims killed at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in the worst shooting in U.S. history.
Westboro update: OPD received a letter from WBC today saying they intend to be here 6/18 to demonstrate. Not clear how many plan to come
— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) June 16, 2016
Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the center, said the extremist group applied for a 45-minute permit for four people outside the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke on Magnolia Avenue. He said the GLBT group received a permit for a counter protest on the other side of the street so family members attending the service won’t have to watch or hear Westboro.
“I’m not surprised evil reared its ugly head,” DeCarlo said. “We’ll make sure they are not heard.”
Counter protesters will hold supportive signs and homemade angel wings to create a visual barrier between mourners and Westboro protesters, he said.
The Kansas-based group sent a letter addressed to Orlando Police Chief John Mina on Thursday afternoon announcing their intentions. OPD couldn’t confirm if they submitted official permit paperwork. Social media posts said they will demonstrate between 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Westboro as an extremist group, noting its anti-LGBT ideology.
Speculation about their arrival swirled before Thursday because a Twitter account linked to the church’s official website proclaimed “ORLANDO BOUND.” The post also includes photos of signs that say, “God Sent the Shooter.”
Other counter-protest groups sprouted on social media.
Some are raising money on a GoFundMe page and a Facebook group to help deploy the counter protesters.
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