View Full Version : 'Patriots' outnumber protesters at Marine's funeral

04-19-06, 07:02 PM
'Patriots' outnumber protesters at Marine's funeral
Tribune staff reports
Published April 19, 2006, 1:43 PM CDT

Five members of a small Kansas church demonstrated today outside the funeral of a Marine from south suburban Lansing, but left when hundreds of counter-protesters turned out to shield family members from their display.

Members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka have been traveling around the country to demonstrate at military funerals, contending that God is punishing America with war casualties for its tolerance of homosexuals and generally welcoming the combat deaths.

Today, they came to the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Philip J. Martini, 24, who died in combat of a gunshot wound April 8 in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

This time, however, the demonstrators were met by nearly 200 "Patriot Guard Riders," a biker group, which shielded family members and other mourners outside Holy Ghost Church at 170th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in South Holland.

When a gray hearse carrying Martini's body arrived at the church, all that could be seen on the street was a sea of black biker leather and American flags waving in the wind.

"What's going on across the street is wrong, and this family has every right to be protected from seeing that stuff," said Patriot Guard member Chuck Dryden. "I'm here to make sure they don't see it."

Earlier, Westboro spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper told reporters, "This nation is being punished by a raging mad God."

Phelps-Roper, who wore a blue T-shirt with an anti-gay message, was surrounded by other demonstrators holding signs that read, "God Hates America," "Not Blessed Just Cursed" and "God is America's Terror." Her group protested for about an hour in front of the church.

"I am the only patriot standing here," she said. "I am the only one that has enough concern for the soul of my nation and wrath of God pouring out on her head to tell you what you need to do to fix it."

Referring to Martini's parents, Phelps-Roper said, "They brought that pain upon themselves. They raised that child for the devil."

Westboro's protests have spurred legislatures in 27 states to pass or propose restrictions on protesting near funerals. The Illinois General Assembly is considering such a bill.

"They do cause pain and turmoil for so many families at a time which should be truly sacred and prayerful," Bishop James Wilkowski, head of the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest, told CLTV.

But the Westboro group left after being interviewed by the media and before the funeral service began, avoiding a confrontation with Martini's family. No arrests were reported by police.

An hourlong funeral service followed, attended by Martini's family, friends, veterans and a Marine honor guard. Martini was a 2000 graduate of Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing and on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

He played football and baseball during high school, where he was known as a popular and athletic young man, his father, also named Philip, said. Martini joined the Marines in 2003 because he wanted to make a difference, his father said.

Tribune staff reporter Jason George contributed to this story.


04-20-06, 01:49 AM
It's sad the stuff she spouts...
but the look of disappointment on their faces when they saw how many of us were standing there holding flags...

well now...that was priceless :p