Around 3,000 people turned out today for Philomath Army Ranger Cody Patterson’s memorial service — in part to remember a fallen local soldier and to support friends and family, and yet also in part to attempt to block the infamous Westboro Baptist Church from picketing the funeral. Known across the nation as a bastion of hate speech, the church regularly pickets military funerals and other sensitive targets in order to spread extreme ideologies that are rife with anti-gay rhetoric.
In a day that should make Corvallis proud, strength of a high caliber was seen in conjunction with an intensely well-behaved and peaceful protest. Crowd control was seen by many as minimal, and quite possibly because it just wasn’t needed.
Starting to gather in large numbers by 12pm, the counter-protestors gathered outside of the LaSells Stewart Center and waved signs with slogans such as “Cody We Have Your 6,” as well as American flags and a few anti-war posters. The tactic being used by protesters, the forming of a human wall as it is called, has been used successfully against WBC members in the past, shielding mourners from the sights and sounds of the picketers. In addition to concerned citizens, members of the Army Rangers from Washington state as well as members of The Patriot Guard Motorcycle group – long-time opponents of the WBC – arrived on the scene.
Although past WBC protests have seen violence and ended in arrests as well as law suits, provoked purposefully as a way to fund their trips, Patterson’s service was peaceful and uninterrupted. Many of those who showed up wondered if the WBC had even arrived, although eyewitness reports suggest that members of The Patriot Guard had surrounded their vehicle, after which law enforcement officials on sight signaled WBC members to remain inside. As of 2:46pm, it was reported that the WBC members had decided to leave.
Currently, however, there are other credible reports that WBC was either not present or that it was some other group that had encountered them. More to follow as details come in.