Over 200 counter protesters showed up at Westboro Baptist rally

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kansas-based group known for its homophobic and anti-Semitic views, protested at Oak Hills High School Tuesday in Green Township and was met by over 200 counter protestors.

Oak Hills superintendent Todd Yohey issued a statement in September saying the school would not be counter-protesting.

"I want to assure you that we are taking this picket seriously and developing plans to minimize the group's exposure to students and minimize engagement opportunities between this group and others," the statement read.

Many teachers at the school used the demonstration as a learning experience. In Mike Taylor's AP US History class, the demonstration became a topic of discussion.

"You have to stress the Bill of Rights," Taylor said. "In my classes, US History and American Government, we'd be hypocrites if we didn't allow the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble."

"They have the right to talk and protest even if we don't agree with it," student Krista Witterstaetter said.

"I don't think it should be right to be able to do that but its legal and they're allowed to do it," another student added.

Many students were shocked the group chose to protest the high school.

"We're still learning," Erika Frondorf said. "We don't have fully developed ideas about religion and the military so it's almost kind of sad that they're targeting a high school."

For these students, they decided no action was the best action to take.

"Even though we have the right to counter protest it's not always the best idea," Frondorf said. "Because it gives them what they want which is attention."

Even by doing nothing their teacher believes they are making a statement.

"There are ways to counter protest that don't involve signs, poor language and poor behaviors," Taylor said.

Many parents were happy students were able to get away from the protest by being let out early.

"I think it's a great thing," parent Michelle Silagy said. "That way our kids aren't involved in any of this chaos when they don't need to be."

"There's no reason just to argue with them and give them what they want," her daughter Ciarrah added.

Even still, protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church believe the demonstration was a success.

"They let those kids out of school early and now all they can do with their time is figure out how to talk about the Word of God and rage against it," one member told FOX19.

The counter protestors consisted of military supporters, LBGT groups from local colleges and universities, parents, community members and some students from Oak Hills High School.

"The counter demonstration in many ways was a delight," said David Reilly, a former member of Armed Forces. "I saw so many young people with smiles and exuberance. I saw some older people like myself who were just there to show some solidarity of where we have been and what we expect of the behavior in this country."

Oak Hills superintendent Todd Yohey said the picket went as well as it could have gone. He did say that there were fewer counter protesters than he expected, but he is proud of his students; how they reacted, by not reacting.

School officials and police say there were no injuries or arrests during the event.

The protest at Oak Hills was at 2:40. The school dismissed students at 12:50 p.m. Parents were asked to pick students up before 2:30 p.m. or after 3:15 p.m. Students remaining at the high school after 12:50 p.m. will be supervised.

According to Megan Phelps-Roper, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, the group is made up of 80 percent family members and 20 percent people outside of her family. Phelps-Roper says the church has 70 members, 40 who are active.

Only four or five Westboro Baptist Church members were present at Oak Hills High School.

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