Last night, the Westboro Baptist Church, the group run by Fred Phelps that is best known for their disturbing anti-gay signs and protests at military funerals, failed to show up at their own scheduled protest at the Rising Action Theatre in Oakland Park, FL.
Instead, over one hundred peaceful supporters of the theater and the community showed up. The community came together and said that the universally-condemned Westboro brand of hate speech is not welcome in South Florida.
Religious leaders, community activists, residents, and political leaders showed up to make sure that the theater not only had support against Phelps, but thrived in the face of adversity. The show went on to a sold out crowd with a standing ovation to the theater owner and his cast.
(click pictures to enlarge)
It was also incredibly amazing to see the support of the city of Oakland Park, local law enforcement, and others in making sure it was a wonderful night in our city and the South Florida community. Having worked with the Sheriff's office in the lead up to the protest, I can say they truly have been amazing and an example of how inclusive Oakland Park is. It was also good to see the Broward Sheriff's Office handing out fliers about the still unsolved murder of Simmie Williams Jr.
Time and time again, Oakland Park has proven that it is a leader in South Florida in tolerance, inclusion, and embracing diversity. It's one of the many reasons I am honored to run for City Commission in Oakland Park.
By supporting those in our city against this type of rhetoric, we sent a clear message that Phelps and his followers have no power here. It's a message that Westboro and others like them have heard loud and clear:
Don't bother showing up. You are not welcome in our community.