You can't really get a college kid out of bed early for any reason. That is, unless there are anti-Jew, anti-gay, anti-American protesters holding picket signs at their school. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) stopped in front of College of Charleston's Jewish Studies Center on Tuesday morning as part of their picketing tour. Made famous for protesting at the funeral of Matthew Shepard more than a decade ago, the WBC has since gone on to protest at the funerals of war heroes.
The church was in town for three days last week to protest a convention of the Joint IED-Defeat Organization, which works to eliminate the threat of explosive devices on the battlefield.
But, while in town, they also picketed the local air base, area high schools, and two Jewish centers, including one at the College of Charleston. There were only four members of the WBC, three adults and one child, taking up a meager corner at George and Wentworth, holding signs saying, "Pray for more dead kids" and "The Jews killed Jesus."
A full police detail was present during the event to direct traffic and, more importantly, to make sure nothing bad happened to interfere with their right to free speech.
But across the street from the WBC protestors, more than 100 college students assembled to counter WBC's protest. In the crowd was Joe Quinn, one of the organizers of the Lady Gaga dance-a-thon event in January and a co-organizer for some of the counter-protest Tuesday.
The original idea for the counter-protest was to keep it silent, but they felt that was too unrealistic. Instead the students fought what they believed to be absurd by being absurd themselves, holding signs saying "Everybody loves Raymond" and "Taste the Rainbow," and even shouting comments like "We're here, we're Jewish, get used to it."
Some locals were concerned about giving the Kansas-based protestors attention, but Quinn felt it was important to be out there.
"I'm a pretty laid back person and it's hard to offend me," he says. "Words are words, but they use those words in the most hateful and horrible way, and it just makes me sad that there are people like this in the world today."
Quinn was pleased and a little surprised at the crowd that turned out for the counter-protest.
"It's sad that they're enjoying this," he said, looking at the WBC members through the thick mass of counter protesters. "It just shows that so many people can come out together and demonstrate that love can conquer hate, you know?"