CORVALLIS, Ore. — A group notorious for protesting U.S. soldiers’ funerals plans to demonstrate in Corvallis this weekend, but it will be met by a counter-protest.
Pfc. Cody Patterson died in Afghanistan two weeks ago. His service is Sunday, and the Westboro Baptist Church is scheduled to be there.
But many residents from across the Northwest are going out of their way to make sure this group does not take away from Patterson’s ceremony.
“I was pretty emotionally charged that they would be coming to our school to our town,” said counter-protest organizer Lexie Merrill.
“That’s not what we tolerate in Corvallis, especially not in our living room, that’s not what this campus is about,” said counter-protest organizer Mo Brethower.
That emotional reaction quickly turned into a community action. Several people–some who don’t even know Patterson–started making plans.
“I started reaching out to other people in Greek like in fraternities and sororities, and the response was overwhelming like yes, I’m going to be there,” said counter-protest organizer Michael Wallace.
Facebook groups formed and RSVPs through social media promptly added up
“We have already 1,000 people who say they are attending the counter-protest,” Merrill said.
The Westboro Baptist Church sent out a press release saying they would show up at the LaSells Stewart Center at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday to exercise its first amendment right of free speech. But counter-protesters know their rights too and plan to make sure Patterson’s family is protected from any kind of hostility and harrassment.
“So what we’re asking is for silence, for people to stand and be respectful of Cody, to keep the focus on him and keep the focus on love,” Merrill said.
While the church group is known across the country for protesting these kinds of ceremonies, they’ve also made it a habit of not following through with their agenda. Either way, Patterson supporters say they will be standing by their mission.
“Then so be it. There’s more support for Specialist Patterson, for his family, and that’s what we’re about,” Brethower said.
A group of motorcyclists called the Patriot Guard Riders say the family requested they be there on Sunday as well. The Patriot Guard says it’s not a counter-protest group, but it is there to support and shield the family from any disruptions.