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Hundreds Form Human 'Barrier' As Westboro Baptist Church Protests Nex Benedict's School

Over 400 people turned out to counter-protest Westboro Baptist Church outside of Owasso High School in Oklahoma after the death of nonbinary student Nex Benedict.

Nex Benedict; counter-protesters outside Owasso High School
GoFundMe; @RainbowYouthUSA/X

After Westboro Baptist Church planned a protest outside of Owasso High School in Oklahoma following the death of nonbinary student Nex Benedict, hundreds of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies showed up to counter-protest.

Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who used he/they pronouns, died on February 8, the day after he was involved in a violent altercation with three other students in the school's bathroom. An official cause of death is pending, but the school district is facing a federal investigation for failing to seek medical treatment for Benedict following the altercation.

In a press release dated March 1 promoting the demonstration, Westboro—the anti-LGBTQ+ group that pickets funerals and events of members of the community—condemned Benedict's parents, grandmother, and the school for accepting his lifestyle and even went as far as to say the teen "got the trouble [he] went looking for."

Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper told News Channel 8 (also using incorrect pronouns):

“Why are they grieving the loss? They told [him] that it was OK for [him] to do what [he] was doing. If you teach your children in any way that it’s OK to disobey God, then you teach them all the way up to murder is OK.”

But when six members of Westboro showed up to protest with their "repent" and "f*gs doom nations" signs, they were met with about 400 counter-protesters standing in solidarity with queer students.

Counter-protesters held signs and banners spreading messages of love and protection and waved Pride flags.

Members of the not-for-profit group Parasol Patrol that uses rainbow umbrellas to shield children from protesters were also on hand, acting as "a peaceful barrier in between hate and these kids."

Parasol Patrol co-founder Eli Bazan told NewsChannel 8:

“Owasso Oklahoma has been through enough and the last thing they need right now is Westboro coming out here and preaching their hate.”

And people on social media agreed, celebrating and thanking these 400 allies who stood in solidarity and vowed to protect all students.

Westboro members reportedly left after fifteen minutes.

Lance Preston, founder and director of Rainbow Youth Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, praised the Owasso community, telling the Los Angeles Blade:

“The community stood strong and sent a clear message that love will always prevail over hate."

Preston also acknowledged the presence of police officers at the protest.

“The swift and effective response to the presence of the Westboro group highlighted the strength of the community in coming together to protect and uplift its youth."
“By choosing love and solidarity over hate and division, the residents of Owasso demonstrated their commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all.”

Posha Ripley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Parasol Patrol echoed Preston's passion to keep students safe.

“We tell people that we’re not here trying to turn their kids gay, we’re trying to keep the gay kids alive."