Texas A&M students drown out antigay Westboro protesters with 'yell practice'

Dylan Stableford

Students at Texas A&M University rallied to drown out a protest organized by the Westboro Baptist Church members this week over the school's acceptance of gays.

Earlier this week, protesters from the Topeka-based group who had swarmed the campus were met by more than 100 students outside the school's student center in College Station. The Aggies countered Westboro's antigay messages with love, holding signs that read "God Hates No One" and "All You Need Is Love."

"Their moral compasses have been broken by their parents, their teachers and their preachers," Steve Drain, a longtime Westboro member, told KBTX-TV. "From the time they were born, they were taught lies such as God loves everybody, and it's OK to be gay, and it's OK to divorce your wife and remarry another one."

The group later traveled to Houston to protest Mayor Anise Parker, who is openly gay.

In a press release, Westboro — which is notorious for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers with antigay signs that claim the deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality — said it was protesting the school's nondiscrimination practices as well as its love of football.

Fittingly, dozens of students also decided to hold their traditional "midnight yell practice," which is normally held the night before Texas A&M football games, at 8 a.m. to drown out the protesters.

"Their message is just one of pure hate, and it's not something we want people to listen to," Elyssa De Caprio, who organized the yell practice, told KBTX.

It's not the first time a Westboro demonstration has been overshadowed by a counterprotest.

Following the death of Westboro founding pastor Fred Phelps in March, Westboro protesters who had gathered outside a Lorde concert in Kansas City, Mo., were greeted by demonstrators with banners that read "Sorry for your loss" and "Live your life and be awesome."

"We realized that it wasn't so much about antagonizing them," Megan Coleman, who helped create one of the counterprotest signs, told KSHB-TV. "We are here for people who need that message and need that positivity."

In 2011, the Foo Fighters performed outside before their concert in Kansas City to counter a planned Westboro demonstration.

"God Bless America! It takes all kinds," frontman Dave Grohl said. "I don't care if you're black or white or purple or green, whether you're Pennsylvanian or Transylvanian, Lady Gaga or Lady Antebellum. Men loving women and women loving men and men loving men and women loving women — you all know we like to watch that. But what I'd like to say is, God Bless America, y'all!"

And last year, a 5-year-old girl who set up a lemonade stand across the street from Westboro's headquarters in Topeka raised more than $10,000 in the name of peace.

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