COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The infamous Westboro Baptist Church is planning several protests in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs next month.
Manitou Springs Interim Police Chief Joe Breister got a letter last week from a WBC spokesperson saying that the group would be staging a protest at 7:35 a.m. on Oct. 14 at Manitou Springs High School. The group's website also lists three "preaching" events in Colorado Springs on Oct. 13.
WBC has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other anti-discrimination watchdogs. The group garnered a massive amount of negative press coverage due to their inflammatory protest signs that often say derogatory slurs against LGBTQ and military service members. The church has also been heavily criticized for some of its members stomping on the American flag and holding signs that say "thank God for dead soldiers."
According to the Manitou Springs School District, the letter sent to Breister said that WBC "members are at all times and in all ways law abiding and non-violent." But Superintendent Elizabeth A. Domangue said she wants parents and guardians to be aware that "members have been known to hold large signs and yell at passersby (of all ages.)"
But if you want to know why WBC chose to protest at Manitou Springs High School, you're not alone -- Domangue said in an email to parents, "We do not know why the group selected our district."
Domangue said keeping children safe is the district's number one priority as the protest unfolds. An increased police presence will be around the school, and the district expects up to 20 protesters based on previous experiences by other school districts.
"In others' experiences with previous WBC protests, the best strategy has been to ignore them, which brings less attention to them and ends up being the least disruptive," Domangue said. Counselors will also be available for students, and parents can choose to drop their children off at the school later than normal in order to avoid the protests.
WBC will be at the following locations in Colorado Springs on Oct. 13:
- Sacred Heart Church of Colorado Springs in Colorado Springs, CO October 13, 2019 8:30 AM - 9:00 AM
- The Sanctuary Westside in Colorado Springs, CO October 13, 2019 9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
- Church For All Nations in Colorado Springs, CO October 13, 2019 10:30 AM - 11:00 AM
The church's founder, Fred Phelps, died in 2014. Since then, no leader has been named, and the group has been less active than in years prior to his death.