A somber Memorial Day 2011 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia was interrupted by an unlikely pairing of counter-protesters, reports CNN. Just a few hours before President Obama was to lead national observances at the Tomb of the Unknowns, members of the Westboro Baptist Church and Ku Klux Klan exchanged words of conflict and warning. No incidents of violence or arrests were reported.
KKK object to Westboro protests
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has stolen national attention with its angry protests against the homosexual community and the U.S. military’s supposed connection. Under the direction of Pastor Fred Phelps and his daughter Abigail, church members parade outside military funerals, sporting anti-gay signs that condemn the souls of dead soldiers to hell.
Such sentiment didn’t sit well with a group of 10 people at Arlington who claimed to represent a group called Knights of the Southern Cross (aka Soldiers of the Ku Klux Klan), however. In an area near where the Westboro Baptists were assembled, KKK members distributed American flags, waved a banner that read “POW-MIA” and did their best to drown out the vitriol of the Westboro Baptists.
According to Imperial Wizard Dennis LaBonte, who was present at the demonstration, the KKK was assembled to protest Fred Phelps’ anti-troop message.
“It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech,” said LaBonte.
No white power in scripture
Abigail Phelps told CNN that the Westboro Baptists acknowledge no moral authority in the KKK, as in her church’s view, the Bible makes no references to white power or white supremacy. People like LaBonte maintain they are neither racist nor hate-mongers, but caretakers of the white race. Meanwhile, the Westboro Baptists cling to their war against homosexuality and the U.S. military complex (illustrated by hateful slogans like “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers”).
First Amendment protection
Despite challenges that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Westboro Baptists have been allowed to protest military funerals under the protection of the First Amendment, as long as they maintain a specified distance from proceedings. Much the same is true of the Ku Klux Klan and their white power demonstrations. So long as violence or direct violations of the law aren’t involved, such groups can protest as often as they like.
Clash on hallowed U.S. military ground
Arlington National Cemetery: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/
New York Daily News: http://nydn.us/mK3Aku
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