BOSTON—Following reports that the Westboro Baptist Church would be picketing outside of Thursday’s interfaith service for the Boston marathon victims, community members gathered together to protect the sanctity of the event and show love for the victims of the terrorist attack.
A Facebook event titled “Human Wall to Block Westboro Baptist Church” helped to coordinate and mobilize the hundreds of individuals who joined together in the park alongside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross hours before the service’s 11 a.m. start. “This is a peaceful gathering. This is not a protest. This is not an anti-WBC rally,” said Drake, one of the organizers, as his megaphone-enhanced voice reverberated throughout the crowd. Hundreds of individuals all dressed in black listened on in preparation to realize their common purpose of standing against Westboro.
However, much to many group members’ relief, the WBC never showed up, and so the human wall eventually positioned itself along the blocks surrounding the cathedral, standing by in support as President Obama and others addressed Boston.
Here are participants’ reasons for joining together Thursday morning.
1. Mike Harty
“I realized since coming here 10 years ago that there’s intense community and I just want to show support for my fellow Bostonians. I’m here because I’m a Bostonian.”
2. Rob Cross
“We wanted to be here to stop that protest from disrupting the grieving process. We wanted to just be here to provide some moral support.”
3. Caroline Markham
“I would say that I’m here for two reasons. One is to try and show support for the victims and their families and everyone who loved them. And then to protect the service—which everyone deserves to have—from people who are doing super disrespectful stuff.”
4. Greg Papas
“We think it’s a total lack of respect for the victims’ families for anyone to try to disturb them in these trying times.”
5. Hannah McNulty
“I just want to stop them from hating. I love Boston, and I will support it.”
6. Jon Kita
“It just seemed like the obvious, right thing to do.”
7. Mike Avagianos
“I was on the finish line bridge taking pictures when it happened,” he said before describing that he was standing next to a group of individuals wearing sandwich boards preaching fire and brimstone. “One of them responded [to the bombs] along the lines of, ‘It’s good that this happened.’”
8. “I think that people gathering in a congregation like this for peace, for support, as opposed to hatred and judgment is good…I don’t think the WBC really has any business here.” — Sean Reno
9. “This is for peace, love, support, and solidarity.” — Drake
All photos by Rebecca Elliott.