Protestors meet Kansas Baptist group outside Hillel

More than 100 UVM students and Burlington residents piled onto the corner of Main Street and South Prospect Street on Tuesday in order to counter protest the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an anti-gay rights and anti-Semitic religious group.The WBC, carrying signs expressing their anti-gay and anti-Semitic beliefs, came to Vermont to protest the first official day of the state’s gay marriage legalization.”Vermont has distinguished itself from perversion,” 20-year WBC member Sam Phelps-Roper said when asked what made him protest.Jael Phelps, and her 7-year-old cousin Luke Phelps-Roper, said that they felt obligated to share their beliefs in an attempt to save the Earth from destruction by the hands of God.The WBC has conducted 41,226 demonstrations to date, according to the website.  After Burlington, the group planned to continue protesting in New York.Although Westboro’s flashy signs drew a lot of attention, the chants of the 100 counter-protestors easily drowned out the chants of the six WBC members. “Chant louder, we don’t want to hear what they are saying,” Counterprotest organizer and UVM senior Jessica Zamiara said into her loudspeaker.Some counterprotesters yelled their support, saying their presence was necessary.”We can’t let them have the camera lens to themselves,” Burlington resident David Pechenick said.Zamiara agreed. “If we [only] listened, they would be getting press anyway,” she said.In an e-mail prior to the WBC appearance, SGA President Bryce Jones encouraged students not to counterprotest as it might provoke a reaction from the WBC.The majority of counterprotesters heeded his advice by showing their silent support simply by being present. At the end, the six protestors left Burlington without any physical altercations between the two groups.